Have you recovered from once again having an hour stolen from your day on Saturday night? This annoying practice has been with us for quite a while now but it’s always seemed fairly pointless to me. Beyond not providing any concrete benefits, it’s an annoyance. Every time I complain about changing the clocks twice per year, somebody always chimes in telling me to move to Arizona, but that’s not a practical solution for everyone. So how would you feel about doing away with it? That may finally be possible with the latest submission of a bill that would keep the United States permanently on Daylight Savings Time. Sponsored by Senator Ed Markey and already garnering bipartisan support, it sounds like we may actually be able to put an end to this nonsense. (CBS Boston)
Sen. Ed Markey is among the advocates reintroducing a bill that would make it so we’d no longer need to change the clocks. The “Sunshine Protection Act” is supported by a bipartisan group of senators.
“I know how much people love sunshine. I know how much better it makes everyone feel,” Markey said in an interview with CBSN Boston. “And I know it’s economic benefits, it’s mental health benefits.”
This is the fourth time Congress has taken up a bill like this. Fifteen states have passed similar laws but for the change to apply, federal statute is required.
It’s a rare day when Ed Markey and I agree on much of anything, so you know there must be some broad support for this reform measure. Marco Rubio has already chimed in, claiming that doing away with “standard time” would cut down on car accidents, lead to fewer heart attacks, reduce strokes and seasonal depression as well as conserving energy. I’m not entirely sure how much of that is really true, but it’s certainly worth giving it a whirl.
How we became stuck with this system is still something of a mystery, though it’s reported that Ben Franklin suggested it in a letter to the editor all the way back in 1784. There’s a common belief that the practice was intended to give farmers an extra hour of daylight to work in the fields, but that may actually be a myth. A more solidly established timeline suggests that Daylight Savings was intended to reduce electricity consumption.
That excuse is also up for debate. Back in 2008, the Department of Energy released a study claiming that electricity demand went down by 5% because of this system because people weren’t turning on their lights until later in the evening. But a parallel study done the same year by the National Bureau of Economic Research claimed the opposite was true. While people were using less electricity on lighting, they were using more for heating and cooling, negating any potential benefits.
In other words, nobody really seems to know for sure. But at this point, we’ve been doing it for so long that we just keep on repeating the pattern like hamsters in a wheel. And let’s be honest about the underlying principle here. Nobody is actually “saving” any daylight. Changing the clocks doesn’t affect how long the sun is above the horizon. All it does is try to enforce behavior modification so you either wake up or go to bed earlier or later. Americans in the modern era largely don’t follow the same work schedules as farmers. There are people working and playing at all hours, with some being night owls and others preferring to go to bed early.
Given all of the Sturm und Drang going on inside the Beltway these days, wouldn’t it be nice to come up with one concrete thing that Congress could work on in a bipartisan fashion and actually do something useful for the country? Getting rid of these biannual clock changes might not seem like a major legislative accomplishment, but at least it would be something.