(Bloomberg) — “Jump forward, fall back” has been a part of life in the US twice a year, at least for most of the country, for over a century. It’s a ritual that causes grumbling quite regularly, especially around the “lost hour” in the spring when the clocks are advanced from standard time. The Senate unanimously approved a switch to permanent daylight saving time on March 15. But the history of the problem, both in the US and around the world, shows that no one approach will make everyone happy.
1. What is the purpose of daylight saving time?
Daylight saving time — popularly called “daylight saving time” — shifts an hour of sunlight from early morning, when most non-farmers are in bed, to the evening, when they’re more likely to make use of the extended daylight.
2. When did daylight saving time start?
The idea for daylight saving time is said to have originated in the 18th century; Benjamin Franklin felt that sleeping late in the summer was a waste of productive time and that the extra hour of sunlight in the evening would reduce candle consumption. The idea was first adopted as an official policy by Germany during World War I, to save energy costs. Other countries followed, including the US, which adopted the time change in 1918, albeit without a unified national system. In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which unified daylight saving time across the country—or most of it. In 2005, the DST period was extended to the current schedule, which runs from the second weekend in March through the first weekend in November.
3. Are some places not on DST?
Yes. The 1966 law said any state could exempt itself. Hawaii has withdrawn from the law, as has Arizona, except for the lands of the Navajo Nation. They chose to stick to standard time all year round instead. Several overseas territories, including American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, also do not observe daylight saving time.
4. What does the Senate bill propose?
The Senate bill would advance the standard time by one hour. If passed by the House and signed into law by President Joe Biden, it would result in DST becoming permanent across the country. States would have the option to stay on the current standard time, but no state should be allowed to move from one kind of time to another over the course of a year – they would have one or the other for all 12 months. The Senate bill proposes that the change take effect in November 2023, a delay intended to give airlines and other companies time to prepare for schedule changes.
5. What would be the benefit?
Proponents point to a number of advantages:
6. What are the arguments against the change?
The big ones: still dark mornings in winter. That would mean longer hours of darkness for both people going to work and children going to school. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has spoken out against the proposal, stating that the body’s internal clock is better suited to standard time. It called for the elimination of “forward, backtrack” but by eliminating DST altogether.
7. Has this been tried before?
Yes. The US experimented with permanent daylight saving time for about 16 months in the 1970s. President Richard Nixon signed the bill in January 1974, shortly after the 1973 energy crisis turned around, when gas prices rose. The change was scrapped before the standard time abolition date was reached, after support for the switch fell in the light of dark winter mornings. Russia reversed a decision to switch to permanent daylight saving time in 2014 as the population struggled with prolonged darkness during the winter.
8. Which states support this?
Beginning with Florida in 2018, a number of states passed laws that would put them on permanent daylight saving time if federal law allows, including Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Washington. Other states, including Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Alaska, Texas and Utah have talked about dropping DST.
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