Daylight Savings Time has more enemies than fans – Chicago Tribune
It’s commonly believed that the first person to suggest the idea of daylight saving time was Benjamin Franklin. It’s true in a way. In 1784, Franklin wrote a letter to the Journal of Paris in which he claimed to be astonished to discover that when he woke up, which was seldom before noon, the sun was already shining.
That’s right, it was a joke. He said that if people would get up earlier and use all that free light, they wouldn’t use so much expensive candle wax. To make sure that folks would get up, Franklin proposed a tax on window shutters and other equally silly measures.
So why do we perpetuate this nonsense today? Well, it’s sort of like Royal Jelly. It’s supposed to do a lot of things that it actually doesn’t do. From the time of World War I it was believed to save energy. In fact, it doesn’t save anything. In areas where people have air conditioning, DST actually uses more energy.
People who sell gasoline claim that daylight saving time is good for their businesses because it encourages folks to drive more, but there’s no real evidence for that. Also, many store owners believe that people shop more because of DST.
Controlled studies are extremely difficult to conduct, but where they’ve been tried, it was found that, while shoppers do mill about more, they buy about the same amount. Now that online shopping is getting so big, I doubt that even 24-hour daylight would help the stores.
The only guys that may be able to claim a legitimate benefit from DST are the ones who own golf courses. They think additional golfing and the sale of golf equipment brings them as much as $400 million. Is that enough reason to change? A somewhat lesser profit is claimed by the barbecue industry, but since people don’t grill in the winter, that’s awfully hard to determine.
So who really hates DST? Well, I do. It’s a colossal waste of time and energy that has been reported to cost Americans $1.7 billion a year. That may not true, but I’m going to say it anyway because I think all this springing forward and falling back is so incredibly stupid.
Besides me, the biggest haters of DST have always been farmers. Crops dry when they dry, farmhands show up when there’s work to be done, and cows need milking when they’re full. Farmers have always thought that DST imposed artificial schedules on them regarding when they ship and sell their goods, and they have historically opposed it.
Another group of haters, which is unfortunately dwindling, are owners of drive-in movies. One of the great family pleasures, in my opinion, is loading the van with kids and going to see a movie. You can take all the rags and gear you need to deal with a bunch of noisy, messy kids. When the movie doesn’t start until the middle of the night, however, all you’re doing is carting around some unconscious children. What fun is that?
The third group of haters is teachers and school administrators. Every time we change the clocks, there are more school bus accidents and students wandering around the streets in the dark until everyone adapts to the new schedule. You see the same thing with heart attacks. They generally increase about 10 percent. Some people never adjust to DST, and stay in mini jet lag for months, waiting for “God’s time” to return.
So why do we make airlines write new schedules, cause TV viewership to drop, force daylight-only AM radio stations to lose an hour of their morning programming, and create confusion about the time of online international web conferences?
Because Congress wants DST for some unknown reason. The last administration apparently tried to get rid of it, but their efforts were rejected. So this weekend, we will again go through a ritual that even Benjamin Franklin, great man that he was, seemed to think was ridiculous.
Bill Mego is a freelance columnist for the Naperville Sun.