Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | April 9, 2005

A plea for year-round daylight-saving time

“Don’t forget it’s daylight-saving time. You spring forward, then you fall back. It’s like Robert Downey Jr. getting out of bed.” ~ Comedian David Letterman

My favorite season is nearly six months long. No, it’s not one of those crazy California-only seasons like fire or landslide. No, it’s not an expansion of summer to account for the fact that spring and fall are so short, at least compared to those I remember from my youth in the midwest.

No, my favorite season is daylight-saving time, observed in the United States from the first Sunday in April through the last Sunday in October.

I’m not one of those whiners who complains about losing an hour of sleep or running 60 minutes late each spring. That is a more than fair trade for the extra daylight I get to enjoy at the end of the day, when I can actually use it.

And although I’ll take the extra hour of sleep when we revert to standard time each fall, it’s not enough compensation for the darkness we have to endure in the late afternoons of late fall, winter, and early spring.

Despite my appreciation of later daylight hours, energy conservation is the real reason we observe daylight-saving time. According to the California Energy Commission, the United States reduces its electricity consumption by one percent per day during daylight-saving time season.

And now, the Republican-controlled United States Congress is considering extending this liberal’s favorite season. According to an Associated Press story, this week a House committee approved an amendment to the energy bill that would begin daylight-saving time on the last Sunday in March and end it on the last Sunday in November.

“Extending daylight-saving time makes sense, especially with skyrocketing energy costs,” the AP quoted Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who sponsored the amendment with Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., as saying. “The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use.”

Markey said extending daylight-saving time would save 10,000 barrels of oil a day – and this country uses 20 million barrels of oil a day. That’s an appalling number that we must reduce.

I ask: Why stop at extending daylight-saving time a few weeks? Why not make daylight-saving time year-round, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil even more? Extending daylight-saving time has other benefits: One study showed crime drops 10 percent to 13 percent during daylight-saving time, plus, we won’t have to keep track of those pesky time changes and endure those interruptions to our sleep schedules. While we can’t avoid the shortened daylight hours of winter, we can at least use the daylight hours to our best advantage.

In May 2001, in the midst of California’s energy crisis, the state legislature sent a resolution to the White House and the United States Congress asking that states be allowed to extend daylight-saving time year-round. No action has been taken on that resolution.

Even though it came out of a blue state, I hope the GOP-controlled Congress hasn’t ignored the resolution because of its California roots. After all, in the four years since that resolution was sent to them, Californians recalled their Democratic governor and installed a Republican, even if he is a moderate by GOP standards.

Daylight-saving time is not a new idea. It was first suggested in 1784 by Benjamin Franklin, an overall really smart guy. But it wasn’t until 1918, when World War I caused severe need to conserve resources, that it was enacted in the United States.

It wasn’t a popular idea, and the experiment only lasted for seven months.

Once again, however, world war forced the return of my favorite season. The United States observed daylight-saving time year-round from 1942 to 1945.

Partial-year daylight-saving time observance was established permanently by Congress in 1966, extended temporarily during the 1973 oil embargo, and permanently extended slightly by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Reagan’s change is estimated to save the country 300,000 barrels of oil each year.

And now, here we are in 2005 with skyrocketing oil prices and the knowledge that terrorism is linked to many of the oil-producing countries we rely upon to feed our oil addiction.

While I’m glad that Congress is considering extending my favorite season, it seems to me that the truly patriotic decision is to observe daylight-saving time year round.

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Responses

  1. I agree wholeheartedly: Daylight savings time year-round, nonstop.

  2. The Freakonomics Blog at NYTimes.com reports on a study of Indiana energy use for daylight savings time showing an increase in energy use of 1%.

  3. Right on. Give me that extra hour of daylight when I can use it. DST year-round now!


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