Inside the Capitol

Monday, April 10, 2006

4-14 Why DST?

FRI, 4-14-06

HAWAII-- Why do we let Congress push us into Daylight Saving Time every year? We've been suffering jet lag for over a week because the government took an hour of sleep away from us.
If you manage to save any, would you please box it up and put my name on it? I think I'm in need of some. Newspapers and radio stations actually have contests to see who can save the most daylight between April and October. That's how silly the concept is.
Ben Franklin is credited with inventing the idea. He's the guy who came up with the adage "Early to bed, early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise. You've probably long ago heard the truth about old philandering Ben. He wasn't that kind of guy.
He managed to have pretty good health, despite his life style and he did OK on the wealth and wisdom. Bit didn't come from being early to bed or early to rise. That was his alter ego, Poor Richard.
Ben loved his assignment in Paris. Parisians enjoyed the good life too. They worked and partied until 4 a.m. and slept 'till noon.
One morning at 6 a.m. a very loud noise outside his bedroom window awakened Franklin at 6 a.m. He went to the window, threw open the sash, and discovered it was broad daylight. What a capital idea, he thought, if clocks could be moved back so daylight came at noon. Think of how many candles could be saved.
Somehow, it never occurred to old Ben and the French that people could get up at 6 a.m. and go to bed at 10 p.m. No clocks would have to be changed and just as much candlepower would be saved.
And that's still the way we do it. Changing our clocks rather than adjusting ourselves. We tried it during World War I and World War II in order to keep factories open longer without using more electricity. President Jimmy Carter extended daylight saving to 10 months a year to save oil during the energy crisis.
Now, courtesy of the Uniform Time Act of 1966, we get to save daylight for no great reason. Those of you who don't get up at 6 a.m. have a little more daylight to enjoy. Energy prices are higher than in President Carter's day, so that saves a little money.
But farmers complain about having to get up even earlier. Evidently plants and animals have learned to tell time. Parents of young children moan that it is still light at bedtime. And operations dependent on the dark, such as outdoor theaters and astronomy observatories must start an hour later.
Seventy countries now observe Daylight Saving Time, so it seems here to stay. Proposals in Congress call for extending it another hour or making it year-round.
It is possible to tell the government to go away. Indiana, Arizona and Hawaii have refused to go along. I'm not sure about Indiana's reason, and don't particularly care. Maybe they want to be more like Chicago.
Arizona and Hawaii are our two favorite vacation spots, other than New Mexico. Arizona reportedly prefers to be in sync with California rather than New Mexico. That's gratitude, considering that for 250 years, Arizona was the western half of New Mexico. But then, during daylight saving months, nighttime is more pleasant in the desert.
Hawaii has a very good reason for not changing time. The tropics have approximately 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night all year. Popular thought is of long days in the tropics. But on the two days a year when the sun is directly overhead somewhere in the tropics, the sun rises at 6 a.m. and sets at 6 p.m. During the course of a year, it will vary by as much as an hour, but that is it. What is saved on one end is lost on the other.



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