The Florida legislature got a lot of attention this week for passing a few gun control measures in the aftermath of the horrific February shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Florida lawmakers did something else of note this week, too: they voted to get rid of Daylight Savings Time with the passage of the “Sunshine Protection Act.” If the law is approved by the federal government, Florida residents will no longer move their clocks one hour forward or backward twice a year like most of the rest of the U.S. population (Arizona and Hawaii do not observe Daylight Savings Time). The Sunshine State would get an extra hour of sunshine during the evenings throughout the year.
What a great idea.
This Sunday, however, most Americans will “spring forward” one hour without thinking much about why this is even necessary. Why do we change the clocks in the spring and fall, anyway? What are the benefits?
Turns out, there really aren’t any. This article from Smithsonian.com provides a CliffsNotes version of the 100-year history of Daylight Savings. The original idea was that adding one hour of daylight to most peoples’ awake time during the spring and summer months would conserve energy used to light houses and buildings. This turned out to be true. However, the time change also led to Americans consuming more gasoline by driving their cars to parks and other outdoor attractions during daylight hours. In other words, Daylight Savings Time was found to increase energy consumption rather than reduce it.
That didn’t stop the government from forcing the entire nation to adopt Standard and Daylight Savings Time in a 1974 effort to ward off an energy crisis. As some of you older folks may recall, we still had an energy crisis in the 1970s, despite the time changes.
Who has benefited the most from Daylight Savings Time? Retailers and the golf industry. When there are more daylight hours, people tend to stay out longer and spend more money. Which begs the question: why not just make Daylight Savings Time the standard and get rid of the time changes?
Perhaps most dispiriting is that a majority of people don’t seem to like having to change their clocks twice a year, yet we numbly comply with it, as if it is a reality of life instead of just bad government policy. Here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, we keep our heads down, don’t ask questions and grumble about losing daylight, or giving up an hour of our weekend. We put up with it instead of wondering how we can change it.
There is hope, though. Maybe in this new age of political activism, Daylight Savings Time, along with many other bad ideas, will finally fade into the sunset.