It doesn't look or feel like it, but the calendar says it's March. The past week brought us Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, more snow - and my all-time least favorite, Daylight Saving Time. Hopefully all of you know by now that DST began at 2 a.m. today.
In addition to the hour of sleep I feel like I lose to DST every year, I have failed through the years to see the intended benefit of saving fuel. Truth be told, as a teenager I felt more fuel savings would have occurred if stores and shopping malls could not open on Sundays. Back then, that wouldn't have been a hardship on people and businesses like it would today because most of us these days rely on stores and malls being open on Sundays. Just think about the savings back in 1966 if no stores were allowed to open - not as much traffic, the usage of electricity would be down considerably because all store and mall lights would not be burning. Even back then, I wondered if there truly were savings when we switched to DST.
For me, the "burning" question is this: Are we really saving energy by going to daylight saving? The thinking was that people went to bed earlier back then and today we go to bed later. Have your night-time habits changed, such as the time you go to bed and get up in the morning, since the mid-1960s? Mine have not.
The United States and European countries have used daylight saving since World War I in an effort to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power. Many European countries started using daylight saving in 1916, the United States formally began in 1918. The act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States was enacted on March 19, 1918, establishing standard time zones and setting summer DST to begin on March 31, 1918. DST was observed for seven months in 1918 and 1919. After the war ended the law was so unpopular, it was repealed. During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt instituted year-round DST, calling it "War Time" from Feb. 9, 1942, to Sept. 30, 1945.
From 1945 to 1966, it was a free-for-all, with no federal law regarding daylight saving. States could choose whether or not they wanted to observe DST. Can you imagine how much trouble and confusion that caused for airlines, buses and train schedules as well as broadcast entities?
Standardization was encouraged by a transportation industry organization, the Committee for Time Uniformity. Surveying the entire nation, the organization learned how confusing the system was across the country. For example, CTU discovered that a vehicle traveling a 35-mile stretch of highway from Moundsville, West Virginia, to Steubenville, Ohio, would encounter seven time changes.
Before the Uniform Time Act in 1966, America was observing DST based on local laws and customs. Congress ended the confusion by establishing the act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on April 12, 1966. Under the act, DST was to begin on the last Sunday of April and end the last Sunday in October.
Later, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973. Congress amended the act, ending DST on Oct. 27, 1974, and resuming it on Feb. 23, 1975. A 1986 law provided DST would begin on the first Sunday in April and end on the last Sunday of October.
A law passed in 2005 extended daylight saving beginning in 2007, which is what we are currently observing. Today, DST begins at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday of November. Congress did retain the right to revert to the 1986 revision in the law if the change passed in 2005 was too unpopular and was not saving a significant amount of energy.
In my opinion, the things we are doing today with fuel-efficient, electric and hybrid vehicles is far more effective than daylight saving. Additional insulation, building tighter homes, installing more energy-efficient windows and doors and manufacturing better insulated and efficient appliances are significant energy-saving steps.
I believe Congress needs to reconsider daylight saving. How long of a time period do we need? Or, do we need it at all?
This information was taken from Webexhibits and U.S. law from various years.
Next week: Al Sturgeon
Charese Yanney of Sioux City is owner and managing partner of Guarantee Roofing, Siding and Insulation Co. She serves on the Siouxland Initiative Executive Committee, the Orpheum Theatre Preservation Board, the Orpheum Theatre Endowment Board and the Iowa Department of Transportation Commission.