Spring ahead, fall back or stay the same? | AspenTimes.com

Spring ahead, fall back or stay the same?

Will Grandbois
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
This poster sponsored by United Cigar Stores in 1918 celebrates passage of Daylight Saving Time. Uncle Sam turns a clock ahead as a clock-headed figure throws his hat in the air. The clock face of the figure reads "One hour of extra daylight."
Library of Congress |

WHY DO WE DO THIS?

David Prerau, author of “Seize the Daylight,” a book on Daylight Saving Time, says Benjamin Franklin mused about how many candles could be saved if it stayed light longer into the evening. It didn’t become urgent until World War I, when Germany adopted DST. The United States and Britain quickly followed to save fuel and so they wouldn’t lose an edge in productivity.

Prerau says that after the war, “American farmers fought and defeated urban dwellers and President Woodrow Wilson and got DST repealed, returning the country to ‘God’s Time.’ Spotty and inconsistent use of Daylight Saving Time in the United States and around the world caused problems, unusual incidents and, occasionally, tragedies. For example, disregard of a change to DST caused a major train wreck in France, killing two and injuring many.”

All combatants went to DST during World War II to save energy. The 1973 Arab oil embargo prompted modern time changes. The time change “reduced the national electrical load by over 1 percent, saving 3 million barrels of oil each month. After the crisis was over, the U.S. reverted to six months of DST, from May through October.” April was included in 1986, and now DST runs from early March until November.

Standard time is regarded by some as important in the winter for morning safety, including for children going to school.

If the shift to Daylight Saving Time left you groggy, grumpy or confused, take heart: 2017 could be the last time Coloradans change their clocks.

Lakewood couple Sean and Teri Johnson are gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that, if passed in 2016, would put the state on Mountain Daylight Time year round.

It’s far from unprecedented.

After summertime daylight saving failed to stick nationally after implementation in World War I, the entire country went on DST for more than three straight years during World War II. An energy crisis in 1970s resulted in 10 months of federally mandated daylight saving and led to the modern approach to time change.

At least 100,000 signatures are need to get the item on the 2016 ballot.

Not everyone is sold on the twice-a-year time shift. In addition to a host of countries that never adopted the system, quite a few have since ended the practice, and some states don’t play.

Like Hawaii and several overseas territories, Arizona is fixed to standard time — which effectively aligns it with its neighbors to the east in the winter and those to the west in the summer. The Johnsons think Colorado’s outdoor focus and position on the east side of the time zone makes MDT a better choice.

“If the statistics rolled in favor of staying on standard time year round, I would have done it that way,” Sean Johnson said. “When you look at how benefits of one or the other in terms of energy usage, crime, commerce, etc., it’s better to get an extra hour in the evening versus an extra hour in the morning.”

It’s a little counterintuitive for folks who’d like to the sun directly overhead at noon, but Johnson points out that we’re already on MDT most of the year.

The initiative itself cites numerous benefits to DST, including fewer automobile accidents and pedestrian fatalities, decreased energy usage, reduced pollution, more time to children to play outside, more vitamin D exposure — many of the same reasons it was adopted in the first place.

Studies on the subject, however, have had almost universally mixed results.

DOES IT SAVE?

A 2008 U.S. Department of Energy report supports the idea that Daylight Saving Time reduces energy consumption, but a study conducted in California around the same time found negligible benefits. One in Indiana actually indicated increased consumption.

Steve Casey, manager of member services at Holy Cross Energy, said any local effects of time change on the electrical grid are drowned out by seasonal cycles of heating and lighting. He sees better ways to reduce energy usage than fooling with the clock.

“If you could change out all our incandescent bulbs for energy-efficient ones, I think you’d see a big difference,” he said.

When it comes to health, Johnson said, the issues are with actual changeover, not DST itself.

The adjustment undermines circadian rhythms which govern sleep cycles, and several studies have recorded higher rates of heart attack and suicide after the spring time change. The trend is generally short-lived and is less pronounced in the fall.

Claims about traffic accidents follow a similar pattern, with studies showing an increase in incidents right around the time change and a reduction in fatalities once people adjust.

Perhaps the most debated element in a state that relies heavily on tourism are the potential economic impacts.

Again, results are mixed.

Sunlight later in the day may benefit industries associated with outdoor activity but can undermine other evening activities like going to the movies.

In agriculture, benefits and detriments vary depending on the crop.

LEGISLATIVE EFFORTS

While staying on a single time would be convenient for locals, it could prove confusing for travelers.

Jennie Spillane, marketing director for Sunlight Mountain Resort, thinks people could cope. After all, plenty of people already come from outside the Mountain Time Zone without it being an issue.

Besides, she said, daylight saving usually increases revenues because skiers hang out at the restaurant after they’re done on the slopes.

“It definitely adds to our day,” she said.

The lack of morning light, however, may make it difficult for crews to adequately prep the hill before skiers arrive, a point raised against a similar measure pushed by state Sen. Greg Brophy that died in committee in 2013.

Although New Mexico Sen. Cliff Pirtle appears to be making strides to the south, Johnson has lost faith in the Colorado Legislature to address the issue.

At least 100,000 signatures are need to get the item on the 2016 ballot, but though it’s still early in the process, Johnson says the community response has been very positive.

Feedback on the Post Independent’s Facebook page seemed to support that assertion.

“I love the “more daylight” but not the time change,” wrote Stacie Pink “One hour doesn’t seem like much, but for a family with kids … it’s a nightmare!”

Jennifer Fazzi Stewart suggested we “pick a time and stay with it,” while Cindy Morrie Hines advocated DST year round.

Right now, most of the campaign’s hundred odd volunteers are out on the Front Range. In order for the Western Slope to way in, a few locals will have to sign up to take signatures.

A volunteer form, along with more information on the initiative, is available online at http://www.savethedaylight.co.


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