We all enjoy an extra hour of sleep in the morning. And who can quibble with those long, light summer days, that bring more time to enjoy the outdoors: attend baseball games, stroll around the neighborhood, or just take in the scenery on your commute home from work?
In short, not many people seem to have a problem with the country’s 93-year-old practice of setting clocks an hour forward in the spring and then setting them back again on a chilly Sunday morning in October: the extra hours sleep offering some compensation for the cold dark winter nights that lie ahead. A couple of states do not observe daylight saving time and certain early-morning industries such as farming say it works against them. But for the most part, it’s a tradition we’re happy to keep.
As far as energy savings are concerned, however, the jury is decidedly out on the benefits of daylight saving time. It was energy conservation that first led Benjamin Franklin to promote the notion of daylight saving time. That was back in the 18th century, when the primary source of household energy was candlelight. And it was energy conservation that finally led the U.S. to officially adopt the time change in 1916.
There was never much definitive research showing this saved energy and as we become more of a 24/7 society, always burning that proverbial midnight oil, the notion of daylight saving time as an energy conservation tool seems more and more quaint. Nice enough, but quaint.
Last year, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a paper finding that daylight saving time’s “longstanding rationale is questionable,” and “if anything, seems to have the opposite of its intended effect.”
This isn’t to argue for a change in this longstanding practice, which suits most of us well enough, at least in summertime. But as we work so hard to challenge the conventional wisdom on all sorts of traditional American practices, from importing most of our oil to turning a blind eye to power sources here at home, we offer the paradox of daylight saving time as one example of how longstanding traditions can cease to serve us, at least in the way they were intended.
Enjoy that extra hour!