City Desk

Daylight Saving Time Should Be Abolished

Hands off our clocks, Warren G. Harding!

For nearly 100 years, daylight saving time has been a pox on American sanity. It's time for its long, dumb history to end.

Enough with changing our clocks (car, watch, bedside, kitchen); enough with the cutesy mnemonic devices ("spring forward—or backward?"); and enough with remembering things period ("is it this Saturday?"). Daylight saving time has been tried and tested all over the world for different reasons by many generations, and the only solid, incontrovertible fact to glean from this grand temporal experiment is that it's a pain in the ass.

What has daylight saving done for D.C.? Except for making people miss flights, morning meetings, and an hour of dear sleep, it's given us precious little. The District has a particularly tortured relationship with DST, having been the subject of a little experiment of Warren G. Harding. Harding generally opposed DST, but in the summer of 1922, he mandated that federal employees in the District of Columbia observe it. D.C.'s federal workers wound their clocks back an hour and had to go to work at 8 a.m. instead of 9. Private employers were allowed to follow suit or not. Predictably, a shitshow followed, as detailed by David Prerau in his book Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time. Harding, regarded by many as one of the United States' worst presidents, repealed his order following a summer of chaos.

Despite the annoyance of changing clocks and losing sleep (which always seems to coincide with the onset of a cold or a hangover, doesn't it?), DST persists, presumably because of the strong economic or scientific arguments in its favor. Except there aren't any.

Since World War I, DST has been implemented for different reasons, including energy crises, war, and Woodrow Wilson's golf game. (Wilson, a serious golfer who was possibly looking for an extra hour on the links, twice vetoed Congress' repeal of DST in 1919. Congress eventually over-rode his foolish ass.) Energy savings have most often been trumpeted by DST proponents in the U.S. and were a driving force in George W. Bush's extension of DST in 2005. But the science on this is hardly conclusive.

Belief in DST's energy-saving powers is often traced to a 1970s study from the Department of Transportation. A later review of that research by the National Bureau of Standards, however, found that the results were not significant. A more recent study by Yale professor Matthew Kotchen of energy consumption in Indiana (a state that formerly did not observe DST, and then observed it on a county-by-county basis) found that Indianans actually increased their energy use during daylight saving time by 2 percent: People might have turned on their lights less frequently, but they ran their air-conditioners more.

If the science behind DST's supposed energy-saving powers is so inconclusive, why does this irritating pastime persist? Good question; let's ask 7-Eleven. The convenience-store chain was the main source of funding behind a coalition supporting the extension of DST in 2005. Why? Because more sunlight in the summer meant more retail business. The National Golf Association also supported the extension, estimating that increased sunlight would increase golf revenues by $200 or $300 million, as detailed by Michael Downing in his 2005 book Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time.

Much respect to 7-Eleven's right to sell more slushies, but seriously, fuck you, 7-Eleven. And keeping people in khakis out on the putting green later is hardly a good reason to inconvenience, oh, the whole rest of the population. Madness indeed, Michael Downing.

The coalition against DST is widespread and crosses denominational boundaries. The National PTA and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops both opposed the extension of DST on the grounds that children will have to travel in pre-dawn darkness to school. Observant Jews also voiced opposition—the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism wrote a letter to Congress in 2005 explaining that the late sunrises would interfere with the faithful's ability to pray in the morning and still get to work on time. (Certain prayers cannot be recited before sunrise, per Jewish law.) DST is also, reportedly, bad for cows.

Not every tradition in this nation must have extensive economic or scientific justification to be observed. Our school year is based on the notion that children need to help mom and dad harvest crops, for starters. But when a tradition has no rock-solid proven record of doing anything beside messing with the REM cycles of the American public and the bus routes of schoolchildren, it must be said: Daylight saving time, you're a disgrace.

(And for the forgetful: It starts on Sunday at 2 a.m.)

Photo via the Harris & Ewing Collection of the Library of Congress

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
  • Voice from the present time to the ancient past

    Who the hell still has to update a clock? Aside from antique enthusiasts?

    Note to those just awoken from a time capsule who are still struggling with small buttons-- here in 2013, the population's phones/computers/tablets automatically adjust. Most of us don't even notice it happened when we wake up.

    Outrage becalmed.

  • http://www.mvjantzen.com/blog/ Michael

    Where is the White House petition to abolish DST?

    DC should resolve to abolish it locally as soon as either Maryland or Virginia does the same.

  • Andrew

    Why would you want less sunlight in the summer? I say get rid of switching but keep it at the Spring-forward status.

  • Lou Laurent

    DLS has nothing to do with saving energy. It is an alternative to granting daylight to those who would otherwise have no option to take advantage of the many benefits of our amazing world at it's best.
    I would submit that, as an alternative all Nations/Corporations start the business day at 6am with a mandatory 6pm cutoff.

  • http://google Tom

    We go through this moaning every year - probably by the slugs that want to stay in bed all day because the don't go to bed at a decent hour.

  • Alison

    Totally disagree! I love daylight savings time. Wish we had it all year round. It's my favorite day of the year for it brings longer and lighter days. It's so nice to have light in the evenings as opposed to the pitch black at 5:00 PM which characterizes late December/early-to-mid January. Would strongly oppose any attempt to abolish DST.

  • http://m_everhart@msn.com Mike

    I don't understand how DST inconveniences anyone. Seriously, you find it a problem? The benefit to the economy goes well beyond the golf courses or 7-11 .The change also encourages more outdoor physical activity for everyone, young, middle age and older Americans. These activities have been shown to have direct, positive effects to the economy.

  • tim

    daylight savings should be all year and forever meaning abolish standard time I rather have darker mornings and lighter afternoon and evening.

  • John

    I love DST and I hate PST. Why would anyone not want more sunlight at the end of the day? As a surfer and living at the beach I love to be able to take my kids surfing after they finish their homework, or play sports. DST does not play havoc for most people Jenny. You must be a very fussy person.

  • lisa

    DST is probably the only thing I look forward to after a long cold winter. Its a sign that soon the flowers will pop up and cook outs will soon begin. For anyone that suffers from seasonal depression, let the healing begin. Happy DST to all.

  • Pingback: The Round-Up: A lot of talk about very little snow | sally cooks

  • leanne

    Daylight savings time makes no sense! It does not add more hrs of daylight to the day. It only changes the time of sunrise n sunset. If u want to enjoy more hrs of sun, get up earlier. Its that simple. Daylight savings makes as much sense as cutting a rope i half and sewing the top to the bottom. You still have the same length rope .

  • Jes’ sayin

    I know this doesn't affect the trust fund babies, perennial students, City Paper "journalists," and some people who work at non-profits, but there are still many people who work 9 to 5 or some set of fixed hours. DST gives them an additional hour of daylight to enjoy after they get off work.

    Also, it gets light out at 5AM at the end of June with DST. Do you really want or need daylight at 4AM at the summer solstice by staying with standard time?

  • Kenneth Roger

    Amen, get rid of it. The only people who benefit from DST are the owners of office buildings who can send their tenants home in the heat of the day and turn down the air-conditioning.

  • TOM

    Hey I live in New York and I have kept all of my clocks on Eastern Daylight Time all year since March 2009. I do not observe the Fall Back, Spring Forward stuff anymore. I don't have to worry about being groogy from losing sleep in the spring for about 6 weeks. The only time I believe in changing my clock is when I travel to another time zone. I will not do it any other time. I only picked DST because its like 9 months of the year already. I hope that Congress and the President ends this whole fall back, spring forward crap soon. It should be either year round DST or year round Standard time.

  • Lewis Armistead

    Here's the thing. The Uniform Time Act of 1966, as amended, the Federal statute that governs DST, only requires public agencies -- Federal, State, and local governments -- to observe the officially prescribed hour. As an individual or private business, you can set your clock to any damn time you please. The black helicopters will not descend to confiscate your timepieces if, for example, you decide to call mid-day, when the sun is at its zenith, 3:35 a.m.

    As everyone knows, we get the same amount of actual daylight each day regardless of when we set our clocks. The issue is whether we set our clocks to register more hours of daylight in the early morning (e.g., 5-6 a.m.) or in the evening (e.g., 8-9 p.m.). Given patterns of activity in an urban society -- 9-5 work hours, recreational and family time in the evenings -- daylight hours are more useful to most people in the evenings rather than in the mornings. In rural areas, the reverse is often true, particularly when some members of a family have to schedule farm chores during daylight -- whatever the clock says -- while others are attending school or going to 9-5 jobs. (It is the farmer who is inconvenienced, not the cows.)

    The minor hassle of changing clocks is hardly worth a column. I recommend that Ms. Rogers simply get out and enjoy the outdoors this spring and summer during the lovely evening light.

  • Brent Eldridge

    One thing you miss: with more daylight hours we see a reduction in dusk/night crime. It is safer to retrieve your car from a parking structure, etc. There are also less traffic accidents since most people are able to arrive home before dusk--the most dangerous driving hour.

    Energy (ie, candle) conservation is the weaker argument to attack.

  • jasper johns

    Harding was a complex man, as I just learned by reading this novel THE BLOVIATOR. While it's a funny look at the man and his presidency, especially his last (truly) absurd last 6 months, it does shed a lot of light on a man who is (I believe) unfairly recalled and maligned. Maybe I'm wrong. Read it for yourself and see.

  • TOM

    @Lewis Armistead: One I am sure that Ms Rogers does go out all spring and summer but that is not the point here. The point here is that its time for America to keep one time year round. Its time to pick either Year Round Standard Time or Year Round Daylight Savings Time. I clearly prefer Year Round Standard Time but I will go along with Year Round Daylight Savings Time if that is what the majority of Americans want. My clocks have stayed on Daylight Time year round since March 2009. Best part I have not dealt with being groogy for 6 weeks after the time change.

  • http://www.iavcusa.com Adam Tan

    Pls bolish the daylight saving ASAP! DST makes no sense for the earth! Human being create trouble for himself.

  • http://www.freshwatersystems.com/c-453-refrigerator-filters.aspx FWS

    I am starting to belive that the satates of Arizona and Hawaii, btw do on observe DST, are the forward thinking states

  • Larry

    I live in Arizona. The state does not agree with the DST law so we keep our clocks the same and laugh at the rest of you.

  • Marilyn

    I completely agree with the author. DST is a PIA, and nothing more. I would much prefer my daylight to be extended into the morning hours. Down With DST!

  • http://dcjack.org Jack

    A compelling benefit to DST is reduced traffic collisions, and fatalities, during the evening rush hour. We bicyclists in particular appreciate being able to bike home in daylight. People going home on foot, or by bus, surely prefer doing so in daylight.

    As for Arizona and Hawaii -- Arizona is on the western edge of the Mountain Time Zone, where it already has relatively late sunsets; while Hawaii, in the tropics, does not see the drastic sunrise/sunset time changes that we in the more northerly latitudes do.

  • Pingback: Daylight saving time should be abolished | Bloviating Zeppelin

  • Harry

    I'd rather we abolished the standard time and stayed on DST all year round.
    It really freaks me when it gets dark as early as 4pm in the winter.

  • Ron Hyatt

    You're absolutely right. We should be on double daylight time year round. Who cares if its dark at 9 AM? You're at WORK.

  • noodlez

    MS JENNY YOU ARE VENTURING INTO MYOPIC LIL TWITTY WORLD BY COMPLAINING BECAUSE FOLK ARE LAZY AND NON-ATTENTIVE.

    BLAMING TIME CHANGE FOR MISSED FLIGHTS AND MISSED APPOINTMENTS IS SO TYPICAL OF TWITTS THESE DAYS.

    THIS TIME OF YEAR IS NOT ONLY FOR TIME CHANGE BUT BATTERY CHANGES FOR SMOKE DETECTORS. THIS IS SOMETHING THAT FOLK SHOULD BE REMINDED OF WITH SOME SORT OF QUASI-IMPORTANT DATE OR SOME FOLK WILL NOT PAY ATTENTION TO AN IMPORTANT EVENT SUCH AS THIS ONE.

    SO ENOUGH OF THE WHINING, SET YOUR CLOCKS BEFORE YOU GO TO BED, CHANGE THE NINE VOLT AND GET YOUR ASS UP THE NEXT MORNING AND HANDLE YO BIZNASS!

  • Dana

    I would rather have the light in the morning. I have to walk my dogs in the dark (again) now that we have switched to DST.

    I wouldn't care if I was retired or had a trust fund, I would sleep in and walk the critters an hour later in the day!

    The dogs don't like it either-they are still on their beds looking at me like I'm confused about the time!

  • Ivan Waton

    One of the few thing that the state of Arizona has in its pro column... no DST.

    If one considered the increased incidence of accidents that are caused by observing DST, I imagine that the actual cost of DST wold be tremendous.

    I personally see absolutely no benefit to DST, and find it annoying for several reasons. It is most annoying to update the 2 clocks in the home, one in each car, 4 PCs running WindowsXP (Micrcosoft does not get extended DST correct on on many platforms and NTP only further complicate the situation. Additionally, I have time of use for my electricity consumption; therefore, I use several digital timers (5 at this time) to shut off appliances during peak hours. Each one of these must also be updated, a pain where the sun don't reach!

    The whole thing is an absurdity, the electricity savings is marginal at best, and are most likely non-existent, or even negative depending on the particular latitude.

    For those of us who use all of the daylight hours, summer and winter, and work or play well into the night, this is not a minor inconvenience, but a time consuming semi annual PITA with absolutely no benefit.

    Furthermore, what most "Americans" (and I mean the U.S. citizens subset here) do with the extra hour is to watch more TV, and coincidentally more advertisements. This is actually why we keep DST around, so that the relentless message to increase consumption and keep up with the Joneses can be drilled into hundreds of millions of ever fatter and more ignorant citizens for an additional "prime time" hour.

    Don't take my word for it sheeple, you obviously have a computer and internet access, so go research for yourself.

  • http://www.powerleft.org Frank Lee

    Thanks for your post.
    BTW
    Check this site out. It is about energy saving.
    http://www.powerleft.org

...