We turn the clocks back at 2 a.m. Sunday. So this is the perfect opportunity to explore just how utterly stupid Daylight Saving Time is.
Why are we still doing this? Especially since:
- It's all based on a 100-year-old, totally outdated theory.
- It's really bad for us, from a health and economic perspective.
- And almost everybody basically hates it.
There's a reason. Two, actually, and you're not going to like them. Let's break it all down.
The totally messed up history of Daylight Saving Time
First some history. We've been turning the clocks back and forth, on and off anyway, since 1918.
We started out copying Germany in World War I. Nobody here liked it, so most states gave it upm but during World War II we went back to it a bit to get the whole company synched up.
After that, it was every state for itself for decades, until the energy crisis came along in the 1970s, and we were basically willing to try almost anything.
So, the U.S. standardized daylight savings again starting around 1975, on the theory that it would save energy. There have been a few updates since then, tweaking the dates when we start it and stop, but basically we've continued on the same path for 43 years.
Except that we don't save energy...
That's the thing. There's no real energy savings (even if there originally might have been some back in the early days of the 20th century).
For one thing, we don't just shut off our lights and go to bed when it gets dark like people did a century ago. And, we use way more air conditioning.
Here's some hard data. The state of Indiana bucked the trend and didn't implement Daylight Saving until 2006. Result? Residential electrical use actually increased 2 to 4 percent according to the National Bureal of Economic Research.
...also, it destroys our health...
Okay, but at least the extra sunlight during the spring and summer months increases health and makes people feel better, right? Actually, no. The lack of sleep in the spring for an hour has some serious ramifications.
Granted, some people do get an extra hour of sleep when we turn the clocks back. But not everyone. I'm pretty sure that if you're part of one of the 35 percent of U.S. households that has at least one young child, you're nodding your head at this.
Your kids will likely kids wake up as they're biologically used to, at "the new 5:30 a.m." tomorrow. That means, so will you.
...and it hurts our economy.
The history's lousy, it hurts people's health, but it boosts the economy right?
There are winners and losers. Restaurants love it in the summer, as do golf courses and sports venues. But overall it actually hurts the economy more when we switch back in the fall than we gain in the spring.
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. found that consumer spending goes up a bit at the start of daylight savings, but it crashes another 3.5 percent in the wrong direction when it ends.
Maybe that's just an argument for keeping the clocks "spring ahead" all year long. And inf act, that's what a lot of people would like to do.
But we're not doing it.
So why are we still turning the clocks back?
At this point, we keep this all up for two reasons. The first is probably that there are some industries that do benefit from the current system's inefficiencies. For example, when Indiana switched and its energy consumption rose, that worked out to another $9 million in electricity costs.
But the bigger reason is probably just plain inertia. There are some states, Massachusetts for one, that have moved toward full-time, year-round daylight savings.
Technically Massachusetts's idea is to switch full-time to Atlantic Standard Time, which is an hour ahead of New York. It's the same result as staying on Eastern time but never switching the clocks back.
But what's holding them back, along with a few other states, is the desire for uniformity. So, you're either waiting for Congress to act, or for a whole bunch of states to get their act together at once. Good luck with that.
Meantime, we're stuck with it. But we don't have to like it. So if you're wondering what to do with your extra hour on Sunday, how about using it to send an email or make a phone call to your government, telling them all things considered--you'd just rather we all stay sprung ahead.