Daylight Saving Time explained
Source: New York Times, Alan Yuhas
What is daylight saving time and why do we have it.
When is it?
Unlike other, Daylight Saving time is tied to a roving calendar day. Since 2007, the second Sunday of March is time to change the clocks springing forward an hour. The first Sunday of November, those clocks go back.
In Britain, France and Germany, the clocks change on the last Sunday in March, and the last Sunday in October.
American lawmakers in 1966, decided that the right time of day for this shift was 2 a.m.
What is it?
To farmers, daylight saving time is a disruptive schedule foisted on them by the federal government; a popular myth even blamed them for its existence. To some parents, it’s a nuisance that can throw bedtime into chaos. To the people who run golf courses, gas stations and many retail businesses, it’s great.
“When it’s dark or there are limited hours after work, people tend to go straight home and stay there,” said Jeff Lenard, a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores, an industry group. “When it’s lighter, they are more likely to go out and do something, whether it’s in the neighborhood, a local park or some other experience. And that behavior shift also drives sales, whether at a favorite restaurant or the local convenience store.”
OK, if it wasn’t farmers, whose idea was this?
The idea is to move an hour of sunlight from the early morning to the evening, so that people can make more use of daylight.
Benjamin Franklin is often credited as the first to suggest it in the 18th century, after he realized he was wasting his Parisian mornings by staying in bed. He proposed that the French fire cannons at sunrise to wake people up and reduce candle consumption at night.
Over the next 100 years, the Industrial Revolution laid the groundwork for his idea to enter government policy. For much of the 1800s, time was set according to the sun and the people running the clocks in every town and city, creating scores of conflicting, locally established “sun times.” It could be noon in New York, 12:05 in Philadelphia and 12:15 in Boston.
One of the oldest arguments for daylight saving time is that it can save energy costs. There have been many conflicting studies about whether actually it does.
A Department of Energy report from 2008 found that the extended daylight saving time signed by George W. Bush in 2005 saved about 0.5 percent in total electricity use per day. Also that year, a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the shift in daylight saving time, “contrary to the policy’s intent,” increased residential electricity demand by about 1 percent, raising electricity bills in Indiana by $9 million per year and increasing pollution emissions.
Energy savings was precisely the argument President Richard M. Nixon used in 1974 when he signed into law the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act amid a fuel crisis. But what started as a two-year experiment didn’t even make it the year. On Sept. 30, 1974, eight months after the experiment began, the Senate put the country back on standard time after widespread discontent.
Daylight saving time still has fervent supporters, especially among business advocates who argue it helps drive the economy.
Who wants to end it?
The European Union and several U.S. states, including California, Florida and Ohio, are either considering dropping Daylight Saving Time altogether.
In March 2022, the Senate suddenly and unanimously passed legislation to do away with the twice-yearly time changes, making daylight saving time permanent. But the bill failed to make it out of the House. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, reintroduced the bill in March 2023.
If Congress passes the bill and if President Biden signs it, the new law would take about a year to implement.
In October 2022, Mexico’s Senate sent its president a bill to end daylight saving time for most of the country, but carved out an exception for the area along the United States border.
China, India and Russia do not use daylight saving time. Nor does Hawaii or most of Arizona. (The Navajo Nation, in northeastern Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, does observe.) Several U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, and the United States Virgin Islands also do not apply daylight saving time.
In 2020, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine called for the abolition of daylight saving time. In a statement, the academy said the shift, by disrupting the body’s natural clock, could cause an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular events and could lead to more traffic accidents.
“Not only are we sleep deprived but we’re trying to force our brain into a little bit more of an unnatural sleep schedule,” said Dr. Rachel Ziegler, a physician in the sleep medicine department at Mayo Clinic Health System. “If you ask any sleep specialist, I think most of us would be in favor of a permanent schedule.”