Japan’s quake may impact time after altering its space

By Shinichi Saoshiro

March 26 (Reuters) – 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 (2.4 metres) around its
epicentre in the northeast, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said on 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 nuclear plant
near the epicentre. 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.

C locks are set one hour ahead in
daylight savings time t o give the day more natural
daylight, thus helping to alleviate the need
for arti fi cial 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
cite d 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.

A nother 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 on 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 kilolitres 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.

(Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

Japan’s quake may impact time after altering its space