Debating Daylight Saving

This is the time of year when we argue over the necessity of changing our clocks

By Kellyn Brown

On the early morning of March 11 we lost an hour and gained more evening daylight — a fair trade and welcomed change to what has been an exceptionally gloomy winter. I love the snow, but I’m at once happy to see it melt away on the valley floor and to have more time to enjoy Montana sunsets.

This is also the time of year when we argue over the necessity of changing our clocks. There’s long been a disagreement over whether we should still fall back and spring forward and if the original intent of implementing daylight saving time — to save energy — actually fulfills that goal.

A study by the Department of Energy published in 2008 found that using daylight saving time only saved 0.03 percent of electricity consumption over the course of a year. However, another study published that same year by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that “contrary to the policy’s intent — DST increases residential electricity demand” with the “greatest increases in electricity consumptions in the fall.”

The debate over its merits continues in earnest.

Just last week, lawmakers in Florida voted overwhelmingly to pass the “Sunshine Protection Act,” which would keep the state in daylight saving time year-round (in other words, it would not fall back an hour with the rest of us in November). The bill now heads to Florida Gov. Rick Scott for his signature.

Even if the governor approves the bill, control over how we manage our clocks ultimately lies with the U.S. Congress. Two other states have received exemptions to the 1966 federal law: Hawaii and Arizona stay in standard time year round. Contrary to Florida, which wants more daylight in the evenings, Arizona — with its scorching summers — wanted less.

Along with the remaining legal hurdles to ditch standard time, Florida will be in a unique position ignoring the biannual time change. As a story in the Miami Herald pointed out to fellow Floridians, “it could play havoc with your TV viewing habits.” For part of the year, “Saturday Night Live” would begin at 12:30 a.m.; and West Coast basketball games would begin near midnight. The New Year’s Eve ball would actually drop in Times Square at 1 a.m. in Florida.

Closer to home, during Montana’s last Legislative Session, a lawmaker proposed a bill that would eliminate daylight saving time. Like Arizona, our state would remain on standard time throughout the year. We would fall back, and stay there. The legislation introduced by Sen. Ryan Osmundson, R-Buffalo, was supported by the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, but few others.

Schools said they would struggle to hold sporting events after classes in the spring and fall. Resort managers said it could hurt business because tourists enjoy the longer summer evenings. And golfers argued daylight saving time allows them a precious extra hour to hit the links after work.

In the end, the bill was tabled by a unanimous vote in the House State Administration Committee. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes up again next session. Every state loves debating the merit of the time change.

Right now, there’s legislation in the New York State Assembly that would end daylight saving time in that state. It’s unlikely to pass, but imagine the confusion if it remained in standard time year-round while Florida stayed in daylight saving time year-round.

It could become unnecessarily confusing. Although if given the choice between of opting in or out of daylight saving for the year, I think I’d opt in.

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