Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Daylight Savings Time Hoax
A 2011 poll found that 47 percent of Americans said DST was not worth the hassle. Twice a year DST causes disruptions to meetings, travel schedules, broadcasts, billing systems, records management, and people's circadian rhythms. It also forces people to update devices, such as programmable thermostats and clocks.
I was, as were most Americans, always taught that Ben Franklin invented it to save money by reducing candle usage. My elementary school teachers were wrong about that.
Franklin did not invent it, he merely suggested Parisians change their sleep schedules to save money on candles and lamp oil. Actually, they say a New Zealand entomologist named George Hudson, who wanted more daylight in the evenings, presented the idea in 1895.
The common misconception about Ben Franklin comes from a satirical essay he wrote in the spring of 1784 that was published in the Journal de Paris. In the essay, titled An Economical Project, he wrote about the thrifty benefits of daylight versus artificial light.
When Franklin woke up at 6 a.m. he noticed that the sun was already up and he wrote, “Your readers, who with me have never seen any sign of sunshine before noon, and seldom regard the astronomical part of the almanac, will be as much astonished as I was, when they hear of his rising so early; and especially when I assure them, that he gives light as soon as he rises. I am convinced of this. I am certain of my fact. One cannot be more certain of any fact. I saw it with my own eyes.”
He therefore reached the conclusion that getting up at daylight would save the citizens of Paris a great deal of money, he wrote, “...the city of Paris might save every year, by the economy of using sunshine instead of candles.”
Then as a joke, proposed regulations to ensure Parisians became early risers:
1) Let a tax be laid of a (gold coin) per window, on every window that is provided with shutters to keep out the light of the sun.
2) Let guards be placed in the shops of the wax and tallow chandlers, and no family be permitted to be supplied with more than one pound of candles per week.
3) Let guards also be posted to stop all the coaches, etc. that would pass the streets after sunset, except those of physicians, surgeons, and midwives.
4) Every morning, as soon as the sun rises, let all the bells in every church be set ringing; and if that is not sufficient? Let cannon be fired in every street, to wake the sluggards effectually, and make them open their eyes to see their true interest.
Franklin’s little joke, Daylight Saving Time, eventually became a fraud perpetrated on American citizens, not to mention much of the rest of the world.
Why we try and "maximize daylight" which has been explained as a practice to accommodate farmers or to lower the nation's electricity usage are just wrong.
The big argument for DST has always been the idea that it saves money and helped conserve energy. In the 1970s the energy crisis helped further this belief. Saving energy was the reason Congress used in enacting daylight saving time during WWI and again during WWII.
On May 1, 1916, during WWI, Germany instituted DST in an effort to save fuel and the rest of Europe soon followed.
The US passed the Standard Time Act of March 19, 1918, which created the US time zone system and set DST to begin on March 31, 1918, and end on October 27, 1918. Following WWI, DST was abolished in the U.S. until President Franklin Roosevelt instituted what was known as "War Time" on February 9, 1942. War Time was year-round DST, and it was in effect until September 30, 1945.
Between 1945 and 1966, there was no federal mandate for DST. Cities and states east of the Mississippi River and in the north of the country observed DST, while of those west of the Mississippi, only California and Nevada observed DST.
The effect of these varying times made transportation timetables a nightmare, and the transportation industry asked for federal regulation. This resulted in the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which created Standard Time and DST which would begin at 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday in April and end at 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday in October.
The Act allowed states to exempt themselves from DST which Arizona and Michigan did. In 1972, Michigan reversed its position and today only Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands don't follow DST.
In 1973, the oil embargo by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries caused the US to institute year-round DST, beginning January 6, 1974 and ending April 27, 1975.
Year around DST caused school children to leave for school in the dark which caused a lot of complaints. In fact, a 1976 report by the National Bureau of Standards found DST provided no significant energy savings and there were increased fatalities among school children in the mornings.
In 2007, the US conformed to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, with most of the US (and Canada) observing DST from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.
This means DST is now in effect for almost two-thirds of the year. It created a DST period which is four weeks longer, except in years when April 1 falls on a Monday through Wednesday. In that case, the change results in a DST period that is five weeks longer.
A 2008 Department of Energy study reported that DST reduces annual energy use by about 0.03 percent. But, a study that same year from the University of California-Santa Barbara found it increased energy consumption.
After Indiana adopted daylight saving time statewide in 2006, researchers examined power usage statistics and found that electricity consumption in Indiana rose 1 percent overall, with a 2-4 percent increase in the fall months. The additional power usage cost Indiana power users $9 million a year and increased pollution.
In 2012 researchers at the University of Alabama Birmingham reported that the spring forward adjustment led to a 10 percent increase in heart attack risk. Not to worry though...the same study found the risk fell about as much in the fall when clocks were turned back, so things balanced out! Of course if you were one of those that had a heart attack in the spring, such a statistic doesn’t matter.
The clock changes can also raise the risk of accidents by sleep-deprived motorists. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 1996 reporting an 8 percent increase in traffic accidents on the Monday following the spring shift when clocks jump ahead. Again, things balance out. The extra sleep in the fall makes streets about 8 percent safer on the day after the fall change.
With daylight saving time now in effect for two-thirds of the year, it's dark in the mornings which means kids are going to be waiting for the school bus or walking to school in darkness...the same complaint that cropped up during the oil embargo in the 1970s.
There are some benefits to DST though. The US Chamber of Commerce noted that DST increased the amount of shopping done after work, and the golf industry noted a considerable increase in revenue...a whopping $200 million in additional sales of golf clubs and greens fees!
Wyoming and Michigan noted that DST increased candy sales for Halloween. In 1987, both senators from Idaho voted to extend DST, reasoning that fast-food restaurants would sell more French fries made from Idaho potatoes during DST.