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Hello Darkness, my old friend...

Posted on November 5, 2021

It's time to set the clocks back this weekend. We don't love the end of daylight saving time, which officially happens this Sunday at 2:00 a.m. Enter the long, dark nights of winter, where you feel like you should be in bed by 7:00.

Is the time change really necessary? Why do we do this twice a year?

Well, the answer seems to be energy conservation. The Department of Transportation, which is in charge of daylight saving time, says it saves energy, reduces traffic accidents, and curbs crime. But other studies point out that increased use of air conditioning in the summer, plus the health impact of lost sleep negates these benefits. 

Daylight saving was originally adopted in Europe in 1916 during World War I, as a way to conserve coal. The U.S. hopped onto the daylight saving time train two years later. It was unpopular, and so it was abolished in 1918. Then during World War II, FDR implemented year-round daylight saving time (which he called "war time"), again, to conserve energy. This time, it lasted about 3 1/2 years.

Daylight saving time didn't become a permanent standard in the U.S. until 1966 with the passage of the Uniform Time Act, which set in place the system we know today, with clocks going forward an hour at 2 a.m. the last Sunday in April, and setting back at 2 a.m. the last Sunday in October. The time changes have since evolved to happening the second Sunday in March and the first Sunday in November-- this new iteration was not to save energy, but in part to give trick-or-treaters an extra hour of daylight to make their rounds.

Lots of states advocate for year-round daylight saving time. But under federal law, states must get Congressional approval to do so (if a state wants to scrap daylight saving, in other words, stay on standard time year-round, it doesn't need approval as long as the entire state goes along. Currently, Arizona and Hawaii don't use daylight saving time). Just in the last four years, 19 states have introduced legislationor passed resolutions to adopt year-round daylight saving time. But again, that would require a change to federal law, which is no small hurdle.

And we would be remiss if we didn't point out that during the energy crisis in the 1970's, the federal government DID enact permanent daylight saving time. It lasted 16 months-- people HATED it. It was the dark mornings that did it in. I think we here in western Michigan, about as far west in our time zone as we can get, can relate. Imagine sunrise at 9:00 a.m. in December. No thanks.

So, on Sunday evening when you're staring into the dark void and feeling sad, just remember that it might be a little easier to get up on Monday morning!