Did you remember to change your clocks?

1918 Poster espousing the benefits of the first DST shift for the U.S.

Oh, the fun part of Daylight Saving Time (DST) is remembering to change the time on all of your clocks. I think I have finally changed all the clocks in my house, car, and watch to the correct time. This is considerably sooner than most time switches. Maybe I protest a little and wait about a week to change the time on my watch. When I was younger I had a terrible time understanding the concept of DST. I would ask my dad what time it was, he would tell me, and my next question was, “what is the real time?” This got me thinking, what is the purpose and reasoning behind DST. It was observed during WWI and WWII to save on energy costs. The theory being that instead of using energy to light your house, you could use sunlight. Here’s a couple of highlights from a Forbes article on DST.

That all changed in 1966, when President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill into law calling for Daylight Saving Time to begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October each year. The dates were tweaked again, twenty years later, under Ronald Reagan who amended DST to begin at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and end at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday of October. Just about twenty years later (notice a trend?), President Bush signed into law a new energy policy bill, the <a href="That all changed in 1966, when President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill into law calling for Daylight Saving Time to begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October each year. The dates were tweaked again, twenty years later, under Ronald Reagan who amended DST to begin at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and end at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday of October. Just about twenty years later (notice a trend?), President Bush signed into law a new energy policy bill, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (downloads as a pdf) that extended DST by a whopping four weeks. That’s the same schedule we’re on today.

So why extend the DST so significantly as part of an Act so clearly targeted to energy policy? Supposedly, energy savings. The idea is that extending daylight hours will cut energy consumption. If the day seems longer because it’s light out longer, it should follow that there would be less demand for electricity in the evenings. But that may not actually be true. While studies indicate a slight change in demand in the evenings, some studies have indicated that any savings are offset by more energy demand in the morning.

And where you live makes a difference. A study of energy savings in the U.S. in 2007 indicated that energy savings in cooler climates were offset by increased demand for cooling in warmer climates. Environmental economist Hendrik Wolff, of the University of Washington, the same scientist who studied the morning/evening environment offset, found, “Everywhere there is air conditioning, our evidence suggests that daylight saving is a loser.”

It also appears to cost us money. In 2010, Utah State University economist William F. Shughart II suggested that turning the clocks forward and backwards each year costs Americans $1.7 billion of lost opportunity cost each year. His calculations assumed that each person over the 18 spent about 10 minutes changing clocks instead of doing something else more productive.

Whether it makes us more or less productive will continue to be a matter of debate. Most Americans don’t see the benefit of Daylight Saving Time: only 37% believe it to be worth the hassle in a 2013 Rasmussen poll (down from 45% in 2012). Are you one of them?

I lean more towards not seeing great benefits to DST. It messes up my sleep schedule, I have to reset all my clocks, just throws me off, and I hate the time change in November when it is dark at 4 in the afternoon. I do enjoy the later hours of sunshine in the spring and summer, but I’m not sure if that benefit outweighs the negatives.

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