…Does anybody really know what time it is?

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This Sunday at 2 a.m., sleepy Americans will turn their clocks forward
one hour, thus marking the beginning of Daylight Saving Time (DST). If
it seems a bit early in the calendar year for the change, you are
right. It is the second year of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a
federal law extending Daylight Saving Time by about a month. As of
2007, DST starts the second Sunday of March and ends on the first
Sunday of November.

Every spring we move our clocks one hour ahead and “lose” an hour
during the night and each fall we move our clocks back one hour and
“gain” an extra hour. The phrase “spring forward, fall back” helps
people remember to perform this annual task, but many people ask why
DST is necessary. Ostensibly, DST helps save money through reduced
use of power by businesses during daylight hours. An early goal of DST
was to reduce evening usage of incandescent lighting, formerly a
primary use of electricity; however, modern heating and cooling usage
patterns can cause DST to increase electricity consumption. While
adding daylight to afternoons benefits retailing, sports, and other
activities that exploit sunlight after working hours, it also causes
problems for farming, entertainment and other occupations tied to the
sun. While extra afternoon daylight reduces traffic fatalities, its
effect on health and crime is less clear.

“When we entered an industrialized society then we could alter the
time as we wished,” explained Franklin Institute’s Chief Astronomer
Derrick Pitts. “When time moved from being a natural phenomena to this
thing you wear on your wrist, than that changed the world altogether.
Once electricity became widely available then we could have artificial
night so people could stay up later and people could work through the
night because we had power and light to see. This changed our natural
schedule of operation, so rather than us going to bed when the sun
goes down and getting up when the sun rises, we don’t get enough hours
of sleep anymore.”

Although standard time in time zones was instituted in the U.S. and
Canada by the railroads in 1883, it was not established in U.S. law
until the Act of March 19, 1918, sometimes called the Standard Time
Act. The act also established daylight saving time, a contentious idea
then. Daylight saving time was repealed in 1919, but standard time in
time zones remained in law. Daylight time became a local matter. It
was re-established nationally early in World War II, and was
continuously observed from February 9, 1942 to September 30, 1945.
After the war, its use varied among states and localities. The Uniform
Time Act of 1966 provided standardization in the dates of beginning
and end of daylight time in the U.S. but allowed for local exemptions
from its observance. The act provided that daylight time begin on the
last Sunday in April and end on the last Sunday in October, with the
changeover to occur at 2 a.m. local time.

The federal law that established “daylight time” in the United States
does not require any area to observe daylight saving time, and the
practice is controversial in some parts of the country. Arizona (with
the exception of the Navajo Nation) and Hawaii and the territories of
Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa are the only
places in the U.S. that do not observe DST but instead stay on
“standard time” all year long. Around the globe, more than one
billion people in about 70 countries around the world observe DST in
some form.

During the “energy crisis” years, Congress enacted earlier starting
dates for daylight time. In 1974, daylight time began on January 6
and in 1975, it began on February 23. After those two years, the
starting date reverted to the last Sunday in April. In 1986, a law was
passed that shifted the starting date of daylight time to the first
Sunday in April, beginning in 1987. The ending date of daylight time
was not subject to such changes, and remained the last Sunday in
October. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 changed both the starting and
ending dates.

“Saving energy should be a national priority that calls on every
American to realize the need to save,” noted Pitts. “Fooling around
with the time is a way for us to avoid the really hard issue that we
need to conserve and we need to change the way we use energy in this
country. That’s a tougher pill to swallow than us changing time,
apparently. This is much easier than trying to change our energy
industry by moving from a petroleum-based energy system to hydrogen or
solar-based energy system, or any of these alternative fuels.”

-30-

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