An Open Letter to Tim Eyman

The letter below was originally written as a reflection paper for Kevin Desouza’s class, IMT 583 – Finance & Accounting Foundations for Information Professionals.

Mr. Eyman:

It seems, that in this economic climate where people are trying to make life easier for themselves, you are intent upon bringing up initiatives that will only waste our money and time. In fact, your abuse of Washington’s initiative system has been so flagrant that you have been mocked by an initiative that attempted to name you a horse’s ass[3]. Fortunately for you – unfortunately for the citizens of Washington – the Courts struck Initiative 831 down as a mockery of the initiative system[5]. Now we find you at it again with Initiative 985, which has been soundly discounted by none less than the federal government as potentially endangering Washington’s transportation infrastructure, despite your attempts to prove otherwise[1].

So here is my proposal: since you seem so gung-ho about utilizing the initiative system to make the lives of Washington State citizens better (nevermind that you often miss your target and go straight to making it a living hell): why not create an initiative to abolish Washington State’s observation of Daylight Savings Time?

No, bear with me now – this is no better or worse an initiative than you could have dreamed up yourself. Arizona and Hawaii already buck the trend of daylight savings (so much so that Arizona becomes its own time zone when the rest of the country switches to Daylight Savings). Back in 2007, when the United States extended Daylight Savings so that it ended later, the National Geographic had this to say:

A study released last year by the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the change will save less than 1 percent of the country’s annual energy consumption.

Bob Aldrich of the California Energy Commission told National Public Radio that energy needs in the U.S. have changed a lot since the 1970s, when the data supporting the current bill was collected.

"We’ve become much more electronically configured, if you will," he told NPR. In addition to lights, people plug in more computers, televisions, satellite dishes, and other power-hungry electronics than they did 30 years ago[2].

Yup, that’s right – we based the choice, in part, on data from the 1970s! Keep in mind, Daylight Savings Time was a way of helping to standardize railroad schedules, and no federal mandate exists that requires states to observe it[6]. Let’s examine this from a financial perspective, since your initiatives are all about saving citizens money.

Consider for a moment that Washington is widely regarded as an economic gateway to Asian countries. Thus, much of our economy depends on our economic relationships with them. Later in Handwerk’s article, he cites Anthony Concil of the International Air Transport Association:

"When Europe and the U.S. are on different times, connections become less convenient. Right now there is one week of discord between the U.S. and Europe, so it’s sort of at a manageable level," Concil said.

He argued that if the energy bill passed, every year "you might have a monthlong period where you have lousy connections, so from a traveler’s perspective it’s not going to be particularly good."

Airlines may ultimately feel the change where it hurts the most—on the bottom line.

"It’s going to be expensive for airlines," Concil added. "Particularly for U.S. carriers—and they are in a difficult climate right now—it’s a major issue, as well as for carriers traveling to and from the U.S."

In 2006, the State of Indiana required all of its counties to begin observing Daylight Savings Time consistently – previously, it was left up to the counties to determine whether or not to observe Daylight Savings. Researchers from the National Bureau of Economic Research took advantage of this law to study energy consumption changes in the state. In the abstract of their report, they state:

Our main finding is that—contrary to the policy’s intent—DST increases residential electricity demand. Estimates of the overall increase are approximately 1 percent, but we find that the effect is not constant throughout the DST period. DST causes the greatest increase in electricity consumption in the fall, when estimates range between 2 and 4 percent. These findings are consistent with simulation results that point to a tradeoff between reducing demand for lighting and increasing demand for heating and cooling. We estimate a cost of increased electricity bills to Indiana households of $9 million per year. We also estimate social costs of increased pollution emissions that range from $1.7 to $5.5 million per year. Finally, we argue that the effect is likely to be even stronger in other regions of the United States[4].

An abolishment of Daylight Savings would likely have drastic impacts on our energy usage and consumption in the residential sector. Pairing an abolishment of Daylight Savings with a significant push for energy conservation and for companies to manufacture highly energy-efficient products could only help the state.

So, Mr. Eyman, I implore you – prepare our state for the future once again and throw your weight behind creating this initiative. Like many other initiatives that you have fathered, you can expect a good deal of healthy debate of the pros and cons of such an initiative; unlike your other initiatives, however, no matter what the result, you will have encouraged the citizens of our state to think seriously about energy conservation and use, as well as the practicality of observing an outmoded tool used for synchronizing train schedules.

With warmest regards,

Peter Ellis


Works Cited

  1. Broom, J. (2008, October 25). "Federal transportation officials say Eyman’s initiative could be costly to state". The Seattle Times. Retrieved online November 2, 2008 from http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008309267_fedshov25m.html.
  2. Handwerk, B. (2007, March 9). "Daylight Saving Change: Energy Boon or Waste of Time?". National Geographic. Retrieved online November 2, 2008 from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/03/070309-daylight-saving.html.
  3. Initiative 831. Retrieved online November 2, 2008 from http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2003-04/Htm/Initiatives/Initiative%20To%20The%20People/INITIATIVE%20831.htm.
  4. Kotchen, M. J. and Grant, L. E. (2008, October). Does Daylight Saving Time Save Energy? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Indiana. Cambridge: National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved online November 2, 2008 from http://www.nber.org.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/papers/w14429.pdf.
  5. Modie, N. (2003, March 15). "A bum rap? Eyman initiative is ruled out". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved online November 2, 2008 from http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/112731_initiative15.shtml.
  6. Vernon, J. (2008, October 31). "Daylight Saving Time History in the U.S.". National Geographic. Retrieved online November 2, 2008 from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/10/081031-daylight-saving-time-history-facts.html.