Thursday, March 31, 2011

Japan's quake may impact daylight savings time

A man draws the Japanese flag on the asphalt in central Bucharest March 25, 2011, during an event paying tribute to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.Credit: Reuters/Bogdan Cristel
Japan's cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami, which shattered towns and altered its coastline, may also have an impact on time in the country.

Japan may shed its decades-old allergy to daylight savings time in an effort to cut down electricity usage as it struggles to cope with a drop in power output after the strongest earthquake in its history on March 11 triggered a huge tsunami that knocked out a nuclear power plant.

The magnitude 9.0 quake was so powerful it shifted the coastline eight feet to the east around its epicenter in the northeast, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano (right) said Friday the government would begin estimating the impact and cost of adopting daylight savings and how much support it would get from the private sector.

Japan has had to implement rolling blackouts after the double disaster crippled the Fukushima Daiichi (after earthquake and tsunami on left) nuclear plant near the epicenter. The mismatch between supply and demand is set to widen in Japan's summer when electricity usage traditionally peaks with the use of air conditioners.

Clocks are set one hour ahead in daylight savings time to give the day more natural daylight, thus helping to alleviate the need for artificial lighting. The sun appears to rise one hour later in the morning and set an hour later in the evening.

Daylight savings, briefly introduced in Japan during the U.S. occupation after World War Two, has had a handful of advocates, but until now no serious government consideration.

Opponents have cited various reasons, ranging from fears that setting the clock forward in the spring and back in the autumn would result in something akin to jet lag, to union concerns it would lead to longer job hours, given unspoken workplace practices that frown on going home before dark.

Another hurdle is lingering bad memories after it was implemented during the Occupation with almost no preparation, resulting in mass confusion and dislocation.

Tokyo Electric Power Co, which supplies the greater Tokyo area, said Friday power demand would exceed supply by 8.5 million kilowatts, or about 18 percent, at the end of July. A company spokesman said that the firm had yet to estimate how much power could be saved.

"At this point we are trying to see whether the plan would be feasible or not and if it will actually be effective. We cannot come up with concrete estimates at this stage," he said.

A group of lawmakers advocating daylight savings estimated in 2008 it would save 930,000 kiloliters of crude oil -- equivalent to all the electricity used by Japan's railroads for about 10 weeks.

In the United States, estimates suggest that a one-hour change in time can save up to 5 percent of daily power consumption in large cities. Other studies, however, show that the one-hour change has but a negligible effect on energy demand and at times may increase it.

Reuters,"Japan's quake may impact daylight savings time ",accessed March 28, 2011


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