House proposal to extend daylight-saving time runs into opposition

Airline and school groups among those protesting

July 21, 2005|By Richard Simon | Richard Simon,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - It seemed like a simple idea: extend daylight-saving time to conserve energy.

But the proposal, which House members want in the energy bill that Congress hopes to pass, has suddenly run into opposition - from the airline industry, school and religious groups, and even the Energy Department.

Supporters of extending daylight-saving time - which now begins in April and ends in October - by two months say the additional daylight in the evening reduces electricity demand, especially for lighting rooms.

But the airline industry objects that putting the United States "out of sync with most of the world's clocks" would wreak havoc on its schedules.

School groups say it would force more children to wait for morning buses or walk to school in the dark.

An Orthodox Jewish group complains that the idea presents "serious consequences" for Jewish religious practice.

Even some farmers have complained.

"Cows don't pay attention to clocks," as Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, chairman of the House energy committee, put it.

"I didn't realize what a controversial topic daylight savings is until I started researching how many people it impacts," said Amy Sechler, director of legislative affairs for the National Association of Independent Schools. Her group is among those expressing concern about the change.

The dispute underscores how the myriad of issues covered by the bill to overhaul the nation's energy policy also ensures a variety of disputes, potentially jeopardizing passage of the overall measure. Still, Bush and lawmakers from both parties are eager to pass an energy bill to show their concern about high energy prices.

Some extension of daylight-saving time is likely to be part of the bill, which includes a raft of provisions aimed at spurring energy conservation and production.

The measure now before a House-Senate panel negotiating the bill calls for beginning daylight-saving time a month earlier - the first Sunday in March - and ending it a month later - the last Sunday in November. But the provision's chief sponsors are considering tinkering with the dates to address the criticisms.

The issue has been debated for years. Year-round daylight-saving time, tried during the 1970s Arab oil embargo, generated widespread complaints about schoolchildren waiting for buses on cold, dark winter mornings. The idea of extending daylight-saving time was considered again during the 2000-2001 California electricity crisis, but no bill made it through Congress.

Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, who is sponsoring the current push for an extension with Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, said earlier this year: "In addition to the benefits of energy savings - less crime, fewer traffic fatalities, more recreation time and increased economic activity - daylight savings just brings a smile to everybody's faces."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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