Saturday, March 8, 2014

Saturday Short Subjects: Why We Spring Ahead

In the wee hours of tomorrow morning, most everyone in the U.S. will “Spring Ahead” — knowingly or unknowingly, willingly or not. When you wake up on March 9 (unless you are a VERY early riser) Daylight Savings Time (DST) will have begun. 

Have you ever wondered how this custom came to be? Read on if you have. “Daylight Saving Time: Its History and Why We Use It,” by Bob Aldrich, retired Webmaster of the California Energy Commission, is an excellent article and the source of most of the information that follows. 

Since 2007, DST has commenced at 2 a.m. on the Second Sunday in March and has ended at 2 a.m. on the First Sunday in November. DST is observed throughout most of the U.S. (with the exceptions of Hawaii and most of Arizona) and by about 70 countries (none of which fall on the Equator or in tropical regions) although the starting and ending dates vary.

The reasoning behind Daylight Savings Time (DST)…
is to save energy. Setting the clocks ahead is the equivalent of making the sun set one hour later, cutting the time between sunset and bedtime, theoretically reducing our electricity usage. Also, most Americans like DST because there is more light in the evenings and they can enjoy their time outside, and, when they are outside, fewer things are using energy inside their homes. 

Some recent studies have disputed this theory, however. One study undertaken in Indiana, a state that only recently began to observe DST, concludes that DST actually increases energy use. On the other hand, California has found that year-long DST would help solve their state’s energy crisis.

The long, convoluted history of DST
Daylight Savings Time was first mandated by law in the U.S. for seven months between 1918 and 1919 to conserve resources for the WWI effort. The law was not at all popular and was repealed. DST was reinstated in 1942, in the midst of WWII. Clocks remained advanced one hour until September 1945. After that, individual states and localities were free to decide whether or not to observe DST. 

You can imagine the confusion that caused. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 mandated that DST would begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October. Most places complied, but any state or territory wishing to be exempt from observance of DST could do so by passing an ordinance. [This is still the case today.]

There have been a number of tweaks to the stop and start time of DST over the years — most notably during the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, when DST was extended for most of the year. [The farming states did not like this plan.]

A series of compromises in 1986 and 2005 have brought us to where we are today, where it looks like we will stay, at least for a while.

If you think the current state of DST sounds complicated, check out this dissenting site calling for the end of any time change. The activists at End Daylight Saving Time call for division of the country into two parts, with Eastern and Central combining to form one zone on permanent Standard Time, and Mountain and Pacific combining to form another on permanent DST. This would make the difference between time on the East coast and time on the West coast two hours instead of three, but it would make life quite challenging for someone on a border state, or for any of us engaging in travel or commerce with the rest of the world. There is an easy link for contacting Congress directly from this site should you happen to agree with this point of view. [There is also a link to the StandardTime gift shop.]

Spring Ahead sounds pretty simple now that I think about it. 

Good luck with the change. Enjoy what is left of your shorter than usual weekend.

Why Saturday Short Subjects? Some readers may recall  being dropped at the movie theater for the Saturday matinee — two action-packed feature films with a series of short subjects (cartoons or short movies, sometimes a serial cliffhanger) sandwiched in between. Often the short subjects were the most memorable, and enjoyable, part of the morning. That explains the name. The reason behind these particular posts is that we are all short on time. My Short Subject posts should not take me as long to write or you as long to read (or try).

1 comment:

  1. I don't mind DST, but wish it would begin a little later and end a little earlier. Getting up in the dark is very hard for me....