Reasons behind daylight-saving time questioned
March 8, 2007
Ever since I found out that daylight-saving time will begin on March 11 this year, almost a month earlier than in previous years, I have been questioning the necessity of the time shift in an overall sense.
Not only will daylight-saving time start earlier, but it will also end later in the year. Normally the observance time ends in October, but this year, with the institution of the Energy Policy Act, it will last a week longer. This means that from now on, only about four months will not be included in this period, which makes me wonder why it is even encouraged. Would it be so terrible if we “sprang forward” and never “fell back?”
Since I was young, I never really understood why it was that during certain days of the year, we were told to either turn our clocks ahead one hour or back one hour. In theory, this is just a ludicrous idea. Not only is it a burden to change the time on every watch, clock radio, television set and several kitchen gadgets in the house, but it can be confusing as well.
I understand the rationale behind daylight-saving time is to allow for better use of daylight. This is something I don’t understand whatsoever. Does the color of the sky really have that much affect on how we use our time? Webexhibits.org claims that daylight-saving time saves energy. But, seeing as how we have never not “sprang forward” since 1918, how do we really know how much energy is being saved.
Days naturally get longer as the Earth tilts on its axis and, seeing as how daylight-saving time coincides with temperature increases, it would make sense that energy use decreases. People are turning the heat in their homes down.
To what data are we comparing this decrease in energy use? It makes no sense to compare it with the winter months, seeing as how it is colder and people tend to stay in their homes more often. Besides, winter days are shorter, requiring more light usage. Summer, regardless of the length of daylight we receive, is a time when people are always on the go. Children are not in school, but are typically outdoors and families probably tend to eat out more during the summer.
In a sense, we have no data to which to compare the energy conservation during daylight-saving time. We must first find out what the results are when we don’t observe it at all. It is still unclear to me as to why we continue to enforce daylight-saving time when we don’t know what life is like without it.
Maybe energy would be saved regardless of this observance, especially considering the climatic changes the country has been experiencing in recent years. Days seemed to be warmer here last fall and winter has been more bearable than in year’s past. Hawaii and Arizona, excluding the Navajo Nation, do not observe daylight-saving time, and they survive somehow.
A stipulation in the Energy Policy Act was added so that Congress retains the right to revert back to the original observance period if energy savings are insignificant in comparison or if it is an unpopular change. Since this seems to be an experiment of sorts, I say, if it turns out to be unpopular, we find out what happens if we eliminate daylight-saving time altogether. If unpopular, we can always reinstate the observance period we have become familiar with.
Jennie Oemig is a student at UW-River Falls.