This year, U.S. Gas in the Chicago area is recognizing the 100th anniversary of Daylight Saving Time. In addition to this monumental milestone, we’re also looking at around a hundred years of misconceptions and myths that are being touted as fact regarding DST. Why do we have Daylight Saving Time still? Here is the real truth about DST, and what it does and does not do for us.
The Truth About DST: Farmers and the First Daylight Saving Time
Right from the start, we need to address the most common myth about DST: Daylight Saving Time was not proposed by farmers. In fact, the truth about DST is that farmers do not support the concept, and have never actively supported the concept of daylight saving time. Surprised? Most people are when they hear this. So why do we have Daylight Saving Time?
“According to Dr. David Prerau, author of the book Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time, farmers have been opposed to DST since the very beginning and in fact, have always been the number one group against it.” (The Daily Beast).
The truth about DST can be traced to Ben Franklin and his proposal that people could make better use of daylight. He asserted that they could save money on candles and oil lamps by waking up earlier in the morning, and going to bed when the sun set rather than staying up with artificial lighting.
Yet, because a standard for timekeeping was not yet established at that time, Franklin cannot accurately be considered the factual father of daylight saving time as we now know it. There is another historical element to the truth about DST that we need to explore in order to answer the question- why do we have daylight saving time?
Official History and Truth about DST
The official historical origins of the truth about DST can be traced back to the early 1900s in Great Britain. It was here that a man by the name of William Willett proposed the idea that the government could make use of the wasted daylight that people were sleeping through. The idea was to follow the sun cycle, rather than a set clock, and follow the cycle of sunrise and sunset to dictate when people woke up and went to bed.
His idea was initially laughed out of parliament. However, the attitude of government officials began to change in 1916. It was the Germans who implemented a daylight saving plan during World War I. They did this in order to help conserve energy for the war effort. Britain followed suit, as did the United States when they joined the war in 1918. A little known fact in the truth about DST is that it was quickly abandoned after World War I as it was seen to have served it useful period and as very unpopular outside of the war efforts. Just as rations of food and metal reversed after the war so did the ‘rationing’ of daylight with DST.
However, it was later reinstated during World War II in order to, once again, help save energy by reducing civilians reliance on fuel to light the night time hours. Another little known element in the truth about DST is that it was still unpopular at a national level, even then.
It wasn’t until 1966 that the U.S. got its first national daylight saving– the Uniform Time Act of 1966– in large part based on the concerted efforts of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And from that time on, there has remained a large portion of the population that despises the whole idea, and wants to know why do we have daylight saving time still? The truth about DST is that it has never been all that popular, in general.
The Power of Business in Daylight Saving Time
So the truth about DST is that our national daylight saving policy did not come into being in some attempt to help farmers. It was actualized based on lobbying for factories, stores, and businesses. Think about this one simple fact: farmers woke up with the sun, regardless of what time the clock says. When it is daylight, they get up and start work. They stop work when it is too dark outside to keep working. The sun’s natural cycle is their clock. They don’t need anything done by government to help them get more use out of the available daylight.
Actually, the truth about DST is that it could hurt farmers. Consider this situation: if sunrise was 6 o’clock in the morning and 9 o’clock was when the produce markets opened, farmers would have three hours to get everything done and bring all their goods to market. The next year, when the clocks got turned ahead, the farmers would end up with only two hours of daylight to do the same work.
It, in essence, stole an hour from the farmers. Big businesses and department stores, on the other hand, enjoyed the gift of more daylight in the evening, because people getting off work still had daylight to shop with on their way home. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 was. in its most simplistic and basic form, nothing more than a retail spending plan aimed to help boost sales for businesses and boost local economy profits. This is still the case today and many people are not even aware of this truth about DST.
Environmental Impact of DST
Alright, so Daylight Saving Time wasn’t the best thing for farmers. But has it been doing some good for something other than padding the pockets of retail giants, right? Isn’t DST good for the environment? The truth about DST in this regard is: Well, not so much really.
Although it is accurate to say that, according to historians and some experts, Daylight Saving Time does help with reducing energy consumption. This is the case because DST prevents big peaks of energy usage by smoothing energy usage out more evenly throughout the day. It allows people to take advantage of natural light sources and helps them keep lights off longer each day. While the total energy use over the course of the day remains the same, more efficient energy sources can be used.
This is how it is supposed to work, and is often how it is described when supporters of DST talk about it. However, it is also a truth about DST that these daylight savings in no way saves resources. As late as the year 2000, the Department of Energy kept insisting DST was delivering significant benefits, without any evidence. It used speculative studies that tried to bolster the argument that DST was.
Even the Department of Transportation, which introduced and supported the idea of time zones back in 1966, has stopped trying to force the energy saving theory about DST onto the public. A 2008 study by The University of California at Santa Barbara showed that the truth about DST is that it actually increases the demand for energy in the U.S. rather than reducing it. The idea of saving energy by reducing the need to use lights in the evening hours fails when one important aspect of the truth about DST is considered: How society and business operate today.
Most of the energy consumers in America are big businesses, operating out of large commercial buildings. Most commercial buildings don’t turn off their heating and cooling systems at night. Many also leave at least some lights on for security reasons, so that energy usage is still there too. Add to that the fact that any businesses today are operating 18-24 hours a day, and the truth about DST is that energy usage is obviously still high. So there’s no longer a predictable saving to be had simply for changing the clocks, because the nine to five work day no longer is the norm for many businesses today.
A 24-Hour Economy
It really is pretty simple when you think about it. Society has changed drastically since the idea of daylight saving time was first introduced. The work day is no longer defined by an 8-10 hour work day or by the rising and setting of the sun. Most industries today operate on a 24-hour operation in some shape or form. Agribusiness is a 24-hour operation and factories, warehouses, and even quite a few retailers are now as well.
This means there is still a great deal of energy being used throughout the day and night, regardless of when people are clocking in and out thanks to 2nd and 3rd shifts. So the biggest benefit of DST isn’t energy saving at all but rather a way to boost public health and wellness.
“The biggest benefit is that most people find the extra hour of daylight more useful in the evening than in the morning, so it’s a quality of life benefit. People are happy to have an extra hour of daylight that’s more usable for them, so instead of sitting inside and watching TV they go out and take a walk or play some sport or are more active.” (The Daily Beast).
For some, this is reason enough to continue the tradition and will use this as their answer for why do we have daylight saving time? They say the chance for more family time and physical activity, especially in a day where obesity is on the rise, is why DST should continue. Others still see it as a frustrating annoyance that serves no real purpose other than to boost business profit margins.
Conclusion for the Truth About DST
So there you have it, the truth about DST. It is not the energy saving device many think it is. Rather, it is a gimmick to give retail shops more time to sell to customers. Next time you get frustrated about Daylight Saving Time, don’t blame the farmers. Blame the business companies and lobbies for big corporations!
About U.S. Gas in the Chicago Area
We at U.S. Gas have been serving the hard working industries of Chicagoland since 1993. We supply a complete line of cylinder gases for whatever your business needs call for: whether standard atmospherics or very specialized gases like NF, USP or UHP and more.
Known for our outstanding service for a full range of area industries like food, healthcare, environmental, medical, petrochemical, industrial hygiene and many more, our compressed-gas fill plant boosts our supply and delivery to a superior level of service. Our aim is to be the Number One Company you think of when you think of industrial gas suppliers.
Contact U.S. Gas at (708) 389-1402 to learn what we can do for you!