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Open Your Eyes To Daylight Savings

Daylight Savings Time is once again upon us. And that’s bad news for a lot of folks.

To hear tell, this will result in an increase in heart attacks and suicides, lower SAT scores, a decline in productivity and all sorts of other ills including but not limited to plagues of boils, frogs and locusts.

Even my sainted grandmother would draw a distinction between “God’s time and Mr. Roosevelt’s time” when spring rolled around. Actually, Grandmother’s viewpoint was shaped by the fact that she was a Southern-born, rock-ribbed Republican, and the words “Mr. Roosevelt” would roll off her tongue with the same disagreeing tone usually reserved for “Yankees” or “canker sores.”

But we digress. Others have more substantial problems with Daylight Savings. Take the issue of energy savings, for example. The U.S. Department of Transportation insists that Daylight Savings Time trims the entire country’s electricity usage by a small but significant amount, about 1 percent each day, because less electricity is used for lighting and appliances.

A couple of Yale academic types disagree. In their study, they found that lighting demand dropped, but the warmer hour of extra daylight tacked onto each evening led to more air-conditioning use, which canceled out the gains from reduced lighting and then some: Hoosiers paid higher electric bills than before DST, the study showed.

Of course, that’s Indiana, a state largely populated by cornfields, cows and basketball hoops that simmers beneath a blanket of oppressive summer heat and humidity.

It apparently never occurred to our Yale friends to look to the West Coast, where air conditioning is rarely a necessity and reduced lighting can indeed result in savings. So much for East Coast navel gazing.

I love Daylight Savings Time. The lingering daylight reminds me of spring and summer, of baseball and barbecues. Besides, man was made to walk upright in the light, not cower in darkness. It would almost unpatriotic to dump DST. After all, it was the brainchild of Benjamin Franklin who, while living in Paris, first conceived the notion of Daylight Saving Time, according to David Prerau, who wrote “Seize the Daylight: A Brief History of Daylight Saving Time.”

Franklin wrote that he was awakened early and was surprised that the sun was up, well before his usual noon rising. He humorously described how he checked the next two days and found that, yes, it actually did rise early every day. Imagine, he said, how many candles could be saved if people awakened earlier, and he suggested firing cannons in each square at dawn “to wake the sluggards and open their eyes to their true interest.”

Franklin, as usual, was ahead of his time, even if he was engaging in a bit of whimsy. Some historians even attribute Franklin’s dictum “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” to his experience.

I will count Ben on my side. And joining me in my embrace of Daylight Savings Time is the golf industry which estimated that the extra month added to DST is sometimes worth $200 to $400 million. Not to mention the U.S. barbecue industry which pegged their increased profits at $150 million.

Also in my corner: The aforementioned President Franklin Roosevelt who, during World War II, instituted year-round Daylight Savings Time; President Lyndon B. Johnson who decided to implement a law stating that DST would begin the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October every year nationwide.  And President George W. Bush who extended DST for an extra four weeks through an energy bill policy.

Opposing me on Daylight Savings is the TV industry. According to ratings during the first week of Daylight Savings, no matter when it is, even the most popular shows go down by 10 to 15 percent in viewership.

And Vladimir Putin who decided to abolish Daylight Savings Time across Russia.  One news report put it this way: “On Sunday, Russia switches to wintertime and stays there. Forever.”

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Robert Rector
Robert Rector
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