Satirized by Benjamin Franklin, cursed by sleepy students and anticipated by those who look forward to later evenings, love it or hate it, Daylight Saving Time will spring into our lives this month.
Daylight Saving Time in California will begin at 2 a.m. Pacific Standard Time Sunday, March 12 and will end at 2 a.m. Pacific Standard Time Sunday, Nov. 5.
Daylight Saving Time, or DST, is the practice of setting clocks forward one hour from standard time during the summer months, and back again in autumn, in order to make better use of natural daylight. Of course now, with smartphones, smart houses and computers, clocks are programmed to do this chore themselves without being prompted.
"Spring forward, fall back," is the phrase that urges us to remember which way to set our watches and clocks, if they do not do it themselves. Chronological devices are set one hour forward in the spring, springing forward to lose an hour, and back one hour when DST ends in the fall, falling back to regain that hour.
Automotive clock changes can be so complicated that motorists simply do time calculations in their heads, rather than try to spring or fall back. No matter what, for half the year, the car clock will be correct.
Inventor, writer and politician Benjamin Franklin first proposed a loose concept of DST in 1784. In a letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris, titled "An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light," Franklin jokingly suggested that Parisians could conserve candle usage by getting people out of bed earlier to use more morning sunlight. This clever satire proposed taxing window shutters, rationing candles, and waking the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise.
Franklin also published the proverb "early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."
The United States adopted DST in 1918 and it was widely used in America and Europe during the 1970s as a result of that decade's energy crisis.
According to Wikipedia, a 2017 meta-analysis of 44 studies found that DST leads to electricity savings of 0.34% during the days when DST applies. It furthermore found that electricity savings are more significant for countries farther away from the equator, while southern regions actually use more electricity because of DST. This may mean that changing the time may conserve electricity in some countries, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, but be wasteful in other places, such as Mexico, the southern United States, and northern Africa. The savings in electricity may also be offset by extra use of other types of energy, such as heating fuel.
DST is generally not observed near the equator, where sunrise and sunset times do not vary enough to justify it.
In many countries, fire safety officials prompt citizens to use the two annual clock shifts as reminders to replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Authorities also suggest reviewing and practicing fire and disaster plans, inspecting properties, checking for hazardous materials and reprogramming thermostats.
The Florida, Washington, California and Oregon legislatures have all passed bills to enact permanent DST, but the laws require Congressional approval in order for this to take effect. Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island have also introduced similar proposals.
Although 26 states have considered making DST permanent, unless Congress changes federal law, states cannot implement this, they can only opt out of DST, not standard time. Since 2015, more than 200 Daylight Saving Time bills and resolutions have been introduced in almost every state across the US, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. However, none have received congressional approval to abolish the time change. For this to happen, Congress first has to pass a federal law allowing states to observe DST year-round.
In Florida, the Sunshine Protection Act bill was passed on to Congress in March, 2018, eliminating the practice of resetting the clocks twice a year. The bill is still awaiting approval at the federal level.
In November 2018, California voters approved Proposition 7, to allow Californians to be on year-round DST. Specifically, Prop. 7 was passed to permit the state legislature to vote to adopt Daylight Saving Time year-round with congressional approval, which has not yet been granted. California was one of 14 states to introduce legislation for permanent Daylight Saving Time in 2018.
Politically motivated or not, it takes a week or two to get used to the time change, but in the end we all adjust and forget about it, until the time comes to fall back. Then the process starts all over again.
Diane Sieker can be reached by email at [email protected].