Daylight Saving Time starts at 2 a.m. this Sunday, helping to hasten our dream of spring closer to waking reality. It’ll be nice to emerge from work in an early evening that is no longer shrouded in darkness. But if adjusting the clock’s hands can make March more bearable for all, why can’t we make the same move in the depths of darkest winter?
It’s hard to argue against having a little bit more light in the early evening in mid-December. What if we sprang forward but never fell back?
Florida State Senator Darren Soto is one lawmaker who thinks we should let even more sunshine in. In February, he filed SB 734, which would put the Sunshine State on DST year-round. In a phone interview, he explained how the move would improve quality of life for Floridians while also plumping up the state’s tourism revenues.
“That’s a couple more rides at the park, another hour at the beach, and more folks enjoying restaurants,” says Sen. Soto, a Democrat whose district encompasses the Walt Disney World Resort.
Historically, one of the primary objections to any attempt to extend DST has stemmed from concerns about children walking to school or waiting for a school bus in the dark. To address these concerns, SB 734 contains a clause that would allow school districts to adjust their school start times in accordance with the change in daylight. Since Florida is spread across two time zones, some school districts already have to juggle awkward time crunches, Soto points out.
His bill also authorizes the state’s department of agriculture to study how extending DST would affect farmers. Sen. Soto says that the farmers he’s talked to so far don’t have major objections to moving daylight later on the clock.
“They don’t need the government to tell them the time to wake up and start farming,” Sen. Soto says.
Though Soto says about 90 percent of the feedback he’s received about the bill is positive, he doesn’t really expect the bill to pass any time soon. The idea is a bit radical, after all.
Plus, technically, to observe Daylight Saving Time year-round, Florida would have to take itself off of DST to comply with the Uniform Time Act, which requires that states observing DST follow the dates set by the federal government. Such a legal snare tripped up a Colorado lawmaker’s attempt to move the state to year-round DST in 2000.
The idea isn’t completely dead in Colorado, though it faces hard opposition from the ski industry, which said the darker winter mornings would hurt business. Republican state Senator Greg Brophy has backed bills to take Colorado off of U.S. Mountain Standard Time and replace it with year-round DST. One bill proposed in 2010 died in committee in 2011, but Sen. Brophy indicated in a December tweet that he was still interested in hashing the issue out in the legislature.
This time around, the measure would have been presented as a referendum for Colorado voters to decide upon in 2014. But Sen. Brophy's second attempt at putting the clocks forward was killed in a February committee meeting, after the ski industry showed up again to testify against the measure. Ski industry representatives also cited the objections of the airline industry, which has said extending DST will wreak havoc on flight schedules.
Other states have explored the idea of extending DST into winter, or even adopting what’s called “Double Daylight Saving Time,” or DDST, where clocks are set forward two hours instead of one, as a move to save energy. A report prepared by the California Energy Commission in 2001 found that both winter DST and DDST would save marginal amounts of electricity – about 3,400 megawatt-hours a day in winter, or .5 percent of winter electricity use, and 1,500 megawatt-hours in summer, corresponding to .2 percent of summer electricity usage.
The report also found that extending DST would cut peak electricity use in the winter months by about 3.4 percent. Putting the summer months on DDST would cause a smaller dip in peak usage, “but it could still save hundreds of millions of dollars because it would shift electricity use to low demand (cheaper) morning hours and decrease electricity use during higher demand hours,” the authors wrote.
The British adopted DDST, known there as Double Summer Time, during World War II, and also kept the clocks one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time in the winter during that period.
In the U.S., the timekeepers that hold jurisdiction over DST reside at the Department of Transportation. When the oil embargo of the 1970s prompted the U.S. to extend DST in 1974 and 1975, the DOT compared energy usage, crime and traffic statistics for those extended years. They found that extending DST saved the energy equivalent of about 10,000 barrels of oil each day, prevented traffic injuries and reduced crime.
"An extra yawn one morning in the springtime, an extra snooze one night in the autumn is all that we ask in return for dazzling gifts,” famed British prime minister Winston Churchill said, according to the 2005 book, “Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time.” “We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later.”