Twice a year, we turn our clocks forward or backward, upsetting people around the country. Daylight saving time has been controversial since its inception. Since its benefits are dubious, there is strong opposition to it. Florida passed a law to stop the change last year, and is trying to gain federal approval this year.
There’s a popular misconception that Benjamin Franklin invented daylight savings time. It was actually George Hudson, an entomologist from New Zealand. In 1895, he came up with the idea so that he’d have more hours of sunshine in the summer to go bug hunting. Later, British builder William Willett proposed the idea to the British Parliament, which rejected it.
Daylight saving time only became prominent due to the German government’s attempt to save energy during World War I. After they implemented it, other countries like England and the United States followed suit, along with most of Europe. Most of them reverted to standard time after the war, only to adopt it again during WWII.
In those days, it did save some energy, which largely came from coal. But today, there isn’t really a difference. The argument goes that, if people have more light when they are awake, they won’t use as much electricity to turn on lights. But more natural light also means more warmth, and that difference is compensated for by higher air conditioning usage. For states like Florida, this is more pronounced.
It can help the economy, as statistics have shown that stores get more business in the late afternoon when it’s light out. But it’s bad for the TV industry; viewership for many shows decreases as people adjust to the shift. It can also be detrimental to people’s health: research has shown that daylight saving time is linked to higher incidences of heart attacks.
The popular perception is that daylight saving time was adopted for the benefit of farmers. But today, most people don’t work in agriculture. And farmers have consistently lobbied against it, one reason being that it disturbs animals who are accustomed to being fed at certain times.
Besides farmers, many other people are opposed to daylight saving time. There have been campaigns to eliminate in the European Union, as well as in the U.S. Most of the world, including Asia and Africa, do not use it. Only a minority of the population uses it.
Some U.S. states have already eliminated it. Since 1967, Arizona has not observed daylight saving time. Hawaii has never used daylight saving time, since it wouldn’t be of much use in its tropical climate. Florida is in a similar situation. Daylight saving time isn’t as useful here than in other states, because there is less variation between winter and summer in southern locations.
In 2018, Florida’s legislature overwhelmingly passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which would eliminate the time change. But the law can’t go into effect without federal approval. Currently, states are permitted to opt out of daylight saving time. Florida, however, wants to extend it permanently, which would provide an extra hour of sunlight in the evening, instead of in the morning. It would be the first state to do so.
There could be logistical problems with the shift, since certain areas or states in the same time zone might still have different times. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Recently, Florida Senator Marco Rubio reintroduced federal legislation to make daylight saving time year-round nationally. While it hasn’t yet been approved, U.S. President Donald J. Trump tweeted his endorsement, tweeting that it would be “okay” by him. While the benefits of daylight saving time are debatable, it’s long past time to end it.