On Sunday morning, we all will begrudgingly turn our clocks back an hour – and in doing so, relegate ourselves to a winter of darkness.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
Back in March, the Senate passed a bill to make Daylight Saving Time permanent, meaning that there would be no reverting back to “standard time” from early November through mid-March.
“You’ll see it’s an eclectic collection of members of the United States Senate in favor of what we’ve just done here in the Senate, and that’s to pass a bill to make Daylight Savings Time permanent,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said at the time. “Just this past weekend, we all went through that biannual ritual of changing the clock back and forth and the disruption that comes with it. And one has to ask themselves after a while why do we keep doing it?”
And yet, all these months later – and with the clocks set to be turned back – the Democratic-led House has not picked up the measure. And it seems unlikely to do so in the lame-duck session that will follow the next week’s midterm elections.
“I can’t say it’s a priority,” Rep. Frank Pallone, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told The Hill newspaper in July.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she personally favors making Daylight Saving Time permanent, but said in March that “it’s not going to be much of an issue” for her caucus.
Which is odd. Because making Daylight Saving Time permanent is broadly popular. A Monmouth University poll conducted in March showed that 61% of Americans would favor getting rid of our twice-annual clock changes. The survey also found that 44% of Americans prefer making Daylight Saving Time permanent, while 13% (who are these people!) want to operate on standard time all year.
The debate of Daylight Saving Time has been going on for a very long time. And the misunderstanding about why we do it goes back at least as long. It is not, as is commonly assumed, because we wanted to give farmers more time to work in the fields in the spring and summer. Instead, it’s aimed at reducing our electricity consumption by making it light later in the day.
In fact, our current practices on Daylight Saving Time are fewer than two decades old. Prior to 2007, DST began in April and ended in October. But in 2005, President George W. Bush – in hopes of addressing the country’s long-term energy issues – made Daylight Saving Time start three weeks earlier and end a week later.
The Department of Energy found in 2008 that the four-week extension of Daylight Saving Time saved roughly .5% of electricity use every day. So there’s that.
(Sidebar: The US is not alone in observing Daylight Saving Time. Seventy other countries around the world do too. But in Britain, France and Germany, the change is on a different schedule: clocks spring forward on the last Sunday in March, and fall back on the last Sunday in October.)
The origins of the idea are up for debate. But in a 1784 letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris, Benjamin Franklin suggested that Parisians could save money by getting up earlier during the summer because they would then have to light fewer candles in the evening.