Is Congress readying to ponder time of day?

What time is it?

We live by clocks, by the time of day. Federal contracting lawsuits are sometimes decided simply by whether filings or complains arrived on time. Throughout Capitol Hill you find clocks with warning lights on them to keep members apprised of upcoming votes. The Navy proudly presents the time  outside of the Naval Observatory in D.C.  You can also see it online.  Every couple of decades, Congress reconsiders what time it is — literally — when it votes to extend daylight saving time.

Not all of the U.S. goes to daylight savings time. Arizona, for instance, skips it. Many years ago, I had a source in Arizona named Jack Beedle. He was a well-known expert on the semiconductor industry who would bellow with laughter when I called him an hour early or late. I thought, “How come we have to wallow in darkness and they don’t?”

Now, the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee deals with many of the weighty matters facing the republic. Its homepage lists the opioid crisis, self-driving cars (Lord help us), infrastructure and Energy Department Modernization. One way or another, the committee deals with nearly every corner of the economy.

Congress can’t change the weather. If it could, I’d propose a bill to make April warm. But members can, sort of, decide what time it is. An E&C committee letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao hints at a change in daylight saving policy. The letter is from E&C Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.). It’s not one of those vaguely threatening letters, more a pointed request for information.

Clearly, Walden wonders if a purported reason for daylight saving time has validity. Walden’s letter states, “Every year the change from Standard to Daylight Saving Time is greeted with at least some level of befuddlement and confusion. These include questions as to why the change occurs.”

Why do we have DST? You can get lost in researching this topic. People have been thinking about it ever since “there was evening and there was morning, one day.” After that, things get fuzzy.

A recent rationale for DST concerns energy consumption. One theory holds that moving the hour up and down saves energy. Walden’s letter points out, the last time the Transportation Department looked at it, it found DST has a negligible effect on gasoline consumption. Or on electricity consumption. Walden wants to know whether there’s any newer information.

I asked a few people around the office. I found some who like and dislike DST. No one could say precisely why. I like long evenings in the summer. They give an opportunity to go somewhere on two wheels, motorized or pedaled. As the official timekeeper in our house, I keep the grandfather clock wound. It’s a chore to move this totally mechanical, analog device backward.

If the economic impact is net zero, maybe it’s time to rethink the whole routine.

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