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Why Congress Should Make Daylight Saving Time Permanent

–An illuminating case for passing the Sunshine Protection Act

We have all heard the 17th-century English proverb: “The early bird catches the worm.” But what was true in prior time periods is not always the case in our modern 21st century Information Age.

Today, time zones have been eviscerated for some workers, as the world is increasingly interconnected 24/7 via mobile, digital and virtual technology. That’s one important reason why we should not have to agonize every year over changing the clocks to “spring forward” in March and “fall back” in November (see four factors below).

Most Americans pushed the clocks forward one hour on March 14 — with the exceptions of Arizona and Hawaii — reinvigorating the debate over Daylight Saving Time (DST).

There’s an illuminating argument for why Congress should pass the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021. The bill, co-sponsored by eight senators, would make DST permanent. Moreover, the legislation was introduced by both Democrat and Republican lawmakers from across the ideological spectrum (see a few of their tweets below), a rarity in today’s toxic political culture on Capitol Hill and beyond.

The Washington Post recently reported on similar activity at the state level:

  • “Florida’s state legislature passed its own version of the bill in 2018, as have 15 other states, including California, Oregon, Tennessee and Maine.”
  • “Individual states, however, aren’t permitted to change their DST schedules without federal approval from the Department of Transportation, which means an act of Congress would be required.”

To shed more light on the issue, consider the positive impacts of DST which include (but are not limited to) the following four factors:

  1. Less energy use,
  2. Increased work productivity,
  3. Fewer health hazards, and
  4. Better personal well-being.

People are sick and tired of changing the clocks twice a year — and for good reason.

Circadian Rhythms

Sleep experts warn that moving the clocks back and forth, in general, can result in sleep deprivation. Gaining or losing that precious hour of sleep throws off our internal body clocks and disrupts our circadian rhythms.

This is true whether we “spring forward” in March or “fall back” in November.

According to Shelby Freedman Harris, Psy.D, an expert on sleep disorders at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City:

  • “One hour may not seem extreme, but we can’t reset our circadian rhythms as easily as we change the time on the microwave.”
  • “It’s clear that the human body does not readily or easily adapt to jarring changes in the alarm clock.“
  • “We could keep daylight saving time or not, but if health and safety are the deciding factors, we should stop switching back and forth.”

In short, making DST the official time annually will enhance our health and wellness, in addition to other socioeconomic benefits.

Did you know? In addition to the USA, about 70 countries are impacted by Daylight Saving Time.

Energy Efficiency

More sunlight later in the day makes good business sense and common sense. To wit:

We all consume vast amounts of energy due to new and emerging technologies, as well as demographic changes. The use of solar power and electric cars is trending upward, for instance. Thus, in an effort to enhance energy efficiency and business cost savings, countless numbers of companies have “gone green” with the advent of alternative forms of clean energy, like solar and wind.

Popular Mechanics magazine reports on the amount of energy saved due to DST: “In 2008, the Department of Energy conducted a massive nationwide study that found a decrease in energy use of about 0.5 percent — doesn’t sound like much, but that’s about 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours.”

“That’s enough to power a dishwasher in every single US house for more than a week straight.”

TimeAndDate reiterates how DST benefits energy efficiency:

  • “Pro DST arguments are that more light can counteract blackouts and other electrical failures that can occur later in the day and that it influences people to spend more time out of the house, thus using less lighting and electrical appliances.”

Making DST irreversible would equate with less money spent by employers and consumers alike.

David B. Grinberghttps://www.linkedin.com/in/davidgrinberg-pr/
David is a strategic communications consultant, ghostwriter, and literary PR agent on issues of workforce diversity, equal employment opportunity, race and gender equity, and other social justice causes. He is a former career spokesman for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), where he managed media relations for agency headquarters and 50 field offices nationwide for over a decade. Prior to his public service at the EEOC, David was a young political appointee for President Bill Clinton in the White House: Office of Presidential Personnel, and Office of Management and Budget (OMB). A native New Yorker and University of Maryland graduate, David began his career in journalism. You can find David online via LinkedIn, Twitter, Medium, Good Men Project, Thrive Global, BIZCATALYST 360°, and American Diversity Report.

9 COMMENTS

  1. David — Please understand that I’m TOTALLY with you on this issue before you read what I’m about to say. My irritation is with the legislative process in our country, not with your reasoning, which I’ve known to always be spot on. OK?

    What rankles me about this issue and others is the amount of time legislators spend talking about what is – to use a hockey analogy – an open net. Abolishing DST has been talked about how many times (?) and for all the good reasons you point out. And as you pointed out, there are once again bills going through Congress and various state legislatures. Talk. Talk. Talk.

    It’s an easy “open net” issue to talk about – so we don’t have to have real discussions about gun control, or climate change, or immigration reform, or voter suppression!

    Our turtle-like legislative process brought to mind this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DH4v6FnbvM. I apologize for the explicit language. It’s his, not mine.

  2. Last Saturday my youngest asked me what the point was. . . He said, “Dad, people keep saying we gain an hour, but the sun still rises and sets at the same meteorological time, so what’s the point?” I agree with my nine year old. Pick one. I honestly don’t care which (DST or ST), just pick one, and leave the hands on the clock alone. DST probably makes the most since that is the setting we use 8 months a year. If anything, please stop saying we “gain an hour”, which in my mind is propaganda at its finest (dating back to 1918 here in the US).

    • Aaron, I always appreciate hearing from you. I think most people, like my wife, share the sentiment you expressed: pick one or the other, period. You’re correct that we don’t gain an hour of daylight in general, but we do gain an hour of daylight in the late afternoon and evening with DST (later sunset) — and, as you know, we consequently lose that hour of daylight in the morning (later sunset). There is a misconception about what we gain or lose, so thanks for clearing it up.

  3. The European Union has called on all member states to decide which side to take on the thorny summer time issue by 2021.
    The one on summer time is the latest version of a great European classic: the clash between the states of the North and those of the South. The countries of the North are against summer time because in the summer it gets dark later and not they need to move the clock forward to save on bills. Those in the South, like Italy, are in favor of the dual time we have now because it earns us an hour of daylight on summer evenings and makes us recover another on winter mornings.
    In reality, the perplexities on the single timetable model remain widely shared: the “lack of an impact assessment from which the picture of the advantages and disadvantages can be exhaustively deduced, there is no scientific evidence, that is, that those two small time zone changes can really damage the psycho-physical balance; thanks to summer time, which for six months a year allows us to turn on the lights an hour later, in Italy, for example, the savings have been calculated at around 100 million euros a year; the possibility that the «individual choices of the Member States can create a mosaic of time zones, with the risk of not guaranteeing the proper functioning of the internal market.
    In short, the single time seems to be a stretch. But then, with all the sources of stress there are, are we really sure that we ruin our lives for those two days a year when we have to move the hands by an hour?

    • Aldo, thanks as always for commenting. I appreciate your explaining the issue from a European perspective. I would just note that the time change (either way) affects many people for several days as their internal body clocks adjust. So it’s more impactful than just two days a year.

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