Resurrecting a 1970s response to a national energy crisis, House lawmakers are poised to shower Americans with more evening sunlight for two months of the year.
The energy bill that's expected to pass the House today would extend daylight-saving time into early March and late November to save electricity during evening hours.
The savings would be small relative to the nation's overall energy consumption. But it could demonstrate the beginning of a national conservation effort as Americans grapple with record energy costs.
"Every bit of conservation helps," said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., co-sponsor of the amendment with Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.
The legislation would still require approval in the Senate, where comprehensive energy legislation has stalled in recent years.
daylight-saving time first was envisioned by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 to conserve candle wax. Congress extended daylight-saving time for much of the country in 1974 and 1975 with the crushing energy prices after the Arab oil embargo.
The extension saved the equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil a day when it was in effect. Today, the United States consumes about 20 million barrels daily.
With oil at $50 a barrel, the extension could translate into savings of $300 million over the two months using the 1970s estimate, Upton said.
Today, daylight-saving time runs from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. The House proposal would extend it one month on each end.
About 3 percent of the nation's electricity is generated from oil, down from 18 percent in 1973, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Coal and natural gas are the leading sources now.
Beyond home lighting and other basic electricity uses, later sunlight hours would have only a small effect on air conditioning or heating during March and November.