Daylight Saving Time Saves More Than Time

By Avis, Christopher | Business Perspectives, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Daylight Saving Time Saves More Than Time


Avis, Christopher, Business Perspectives


Most people view Daylight Saving Time as a necessary evil, an inconvenience that gives us an extra hour of sleep in October and robs us of an hour of sleep in April. Spring forward, fall back, lose an hour, gain an hour. Is there any reason for the constant changing of the clock? What are the benefits, if any, of changing time?

Daylight Saving Time is not a new concept, and the idea behind it is a simple one. During the warmer months, there is more sunlight during the day. Consequently, with more sunlight during the day, there is less need for electric lights, so energy is conserved.

The concept of Daylight Saving Time was first put into print by Benjamin Franklin. While serving as a delegate in Paris in 1784, Franklin wrote "An Economical Project," deducing that between March 20th and September 20th there was substantially more sunlight. Therefore, if Paris were to rise earlier, its citizens could save money by burning less candles and oil for lamps.

Daylight Saving Time did not gain significant momentum again until 1907 when London builder William Willett proposed in the pamphlet The Waste of Daylight that clocks should be advanced 20 minutes each of the four Sundays in April and retarded by the same amount on four Sundays in September. The current standard for Daylight Saving Time took effect in 1987. Presently, Daylight Saving Time begins on the first Sunday in April and ends on the last Sunday in October. However, the effects of change know no limits, as clocks must be reset from time to time.

Congressmen Fred Upton (R-MI) recently proposed that the U.S. change its clocks a little differently in the future. Upton, senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced an amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to extend Daylight Saving Time (DST) by two months. Instead of falling forward in April, the U.S. would fall forward in March. Instead of falling back in October, the U.S. would fall back in November. The amendment also mandates that the Department of Energy study the impact of DST on the nation's energy consumption. Upton's measure was approved by the full committee and added to the comprehensive Energy Policy Act of 2005. That bill is currently being debated in the Senate after being passed by the House of Representatives in April 2005.

This alteration would not be the first time that Daylight Saving Time has been changed. In 1974, Congress, in response to the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, extended DST to 10 months and in 1975, DST lasted eight months. The impact on energy conservation was encouraging. Based on consumption figures for 1974 and 1975, the Department of Transportation reported that observing daylight time in March and April saved the equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil each day; a total of 6,000,000 barrels in each of those two years.

"Extending Daylight Saving Time makes sense, especially with skyrocketing energy costs;' said Upton. "With oil at $57 a barrel and gas at $2.45 a gallon for regular in Michigan, we must take advantage of every opportunity to conserve energy. The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use. It is that simple. Not only will Americans have more light at their disposal during March and November days, we will also be keeping our energy consumption as a nation down. Saving the equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil a day during the extended months adds up very quickly"

The current law regarding DST requires that all areas observing DST must have a uniform system to abide by. Still, no area is required by law to observe DST. Arizona (save for the Navajo Indian Reservation) and Hawaii do not observe DST. However, more than one billion people in roughly 70 countries observe DST in some way, shape, or form.

Until recently, the majority of Indiana counties was in the Eastern Time Zone, but did not follow DST. …

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