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Friday, February 28, 2014

The Great Daylight Savings Debate

Adapted from

Daylight Savings Time, or DST, was first adopted to replace artificial lighting so they could save fuel for the war effort in Germany during World War 1, in 1916.  It was quickly followed by Britain and many countries from both sides including the United Sates.  Many countries reverted back to standard time post WWI, and it wasn't until the next World War that DST would make its return. 
DST caused widespread confusion from 1945 to 1966 in the US because many states and localities were free to choose when and if they would observe DST.  That ended when Congress established the Uniform Time Act of 1966 that stated DST would begin the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October.  However, states still had the ability to be exempt.  Following the 1973 oil embargo, a trial extension of DST showed a savings of energy the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil each day.  DST times were changed again in 1976, 1987, and most recently, 2005 and 2007.  Right now, DST is from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.  In the US, only Hawaii, most of Arizona, US insular areas of Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Guam do not observe DST.
DST has been a controversial subject, so here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of DST.
The biggest argument in favor of DST is energy efficiency.  Some say that the extra hour of daylight in the afternoon is treasured for those that work so they can complete outdoor chores, exercise outside or have a meal outdoors.  For example, a Las Cruces, New Mexico newspaper reported that golfers came out later in the day and stayed longer into the evening.  Basically DST influences people to spend more time out of the house, thus reducing the use of artificial lighting or electrical appliances.
But, is this energy-saving method a myth?  The California Energy Commission published a report in March 2007 stating DST had little to no effect on energy consumption in California.  Research from the University of California showed DST would cost Indiana households about $8.6 million due to the offset of higher air-conditioning costs on hot afternoons and heating costs on cool mornings. 
Tourism industries across the world are in favor of DST because the extra hour of daylight could boost outdoor activities and bring in an estimated 2% in revenue from visitors. 
Of course time zones in general confuse travelers, so adding a clock change twice a year causes even more confusion. 
Other complaints about DST include safety fears in the dark mornings, especially for children going to school.  The biggest complaint in the US is certainly the required sleep schedule adjustment.  Parents of young children, plus 40 million Americans with chronic long-term sleep disorders struggle with each time change.
Regardless, it is likely the US will “spring forward and fall back” for many more years to come.

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