As the US switches off Daylight Saving Time, Americans should wonder why Congress in 2005 didn't just fiddle with clocks and call it a day.
On Nov. 6, they set clocks back by 1 hr as their country makes its autumn transition to Standard Time.
Until 2007, they would have made the change a week earlier. And the return to Daylight Saving Time next Mar. 12 would have come 3 weeks later.
That extra month of evening sun came by way of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Lawmakers thought it would save energy. If only EPACT had stopped there.
Alas, the bill, marketed as "comprehensive energy legislation" and hailed as a triumph of bipartisanship, went way beyond chronological tinkering.
It was so full of parochial favors for so many special interests, including parts of the oil and gas industry, that its main effect received far too little notice. EPACT reinstated centralized energy choice.
It created subsidies for alternative energy.
It expanded the list of renewable energy forms eligible for special favors.
It created grants for biomass energy.
And it set the first volumetric mandate for sales of fuel—mainly ethanol—made from biological material.
The mischief didn't end in 2005. Bipartisanship vanished in 2007, when a Democratic Congress enacted fuel-economy standards it couldn't win in 2005 and expanded the biofuel mandate.
Then, in 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act amended EPACT to authorize loan guarantees for projects that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
EPACT thus began an insidious nationalization of American energy markets. Now requirements for biofuels are proving to be unachievable. Recipients of federal loan guarantees are going bust as projects designed to produce uneconomic energy prove to be—surprise!—uneconomic. Promises about green jobs look increasingly lame. And the bill for all this grows and grows—at the worst possible time in American history.
As energy policy, extension of Daylight Saving Time was a silly gesture. But silly beats senseless any time of day.