July 26, 2005 — -- All this time you may have thought the farmers were responsible for making us adjust our clocks twice a year. But it turns out it's the golfers.
And shopping mall owners everywhere have also had their hand in preserving the institution known as Daylight-Saving Time.
Oh, but that's cynical. People love longer nights, later sunrises, right? Not everyone, it turns out.
Nonetheless, negotiators from the House and Senate have agreed to extend daylight-saving time by four weeks as part of a sweeping energy bill. The provision is designed to save fuel, but one of the bill's sponsors also highlighted another benefit. "The beauty of daylight-saving time is that it just makes everyone feel sunnier," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass.
The provision agreed to by lawmakers would start daylight-saving time three weeks earlier -- on the second Sunday in March -- and end it a week later.
Does it save energy? Does it save money? Oil? Lives? Proponents say of course it does. Opponents say it's just a way for golfers to get extra tee time.
The Air Transport Association of America Inc., which represents major U.S. airlines, argues that it would throw U.S. international schedules further out of sync with Europe. It says a two-month extension, the initial proposal, would cost the U.S. airline industry $147 million and would disrupt overseas travel.
"This is an ultimate disaster for airlines and all of our customers, who will be horribly inconvenienced," says James May, the group's president and chief executive officer.
The National PTA is also opposed, arguing that more kids will have to go to school in the dark.
"One hundred years ago when they first proposed this, they said it was about saving energy," said Michael Downing, author of "Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time."
"This has never been realized no matter how many times they say it. Instead it's a tremendous way to get Americans to spend more money."
The United States first implemented daylight-saving time during World War I and then imposed it again during World War II. But for years, the nation lived with a plethora of local daylight-saving times. Finally, Congress tried to create some consistency with the Uniform Time Act of 1966.
In the wake of the Arab Oil Embargo, lawmakers extended daylight-saving time to 10 full months in 1974.
The current calendar was set back in 1986.
Two states -- Arizona and Hawaii -- still opt out of daylight-saving time. The portion of Indiana in the Eastern Time Zone, which for years has refused to "spring forward," is slated to implement daylight-saving time next year.
Today's beneficiaries of later days, Downing says, include golfers and shop owners.
"Here's the deal, it's a heartbreaking statistic," Downing says. "There are more Americans living on golf courses than on farms. So, there's nobody left to oppose it."
Farmers have historically opposed daylight-saving time since they must wake with the sun no matter what time their clock says and are greatly inconvenienced by having to change their schedule in order to sell their crops to people who observe daylight-saving time. Also, dew points then occur at a later time and further mess with the natural order of things.
But those that get excited about longer days and later sunrises, say the measure can only do good.
"It moves human activity toward later in the day and makes best use of daylight," said David Prerau, author of "Seize the Daylight, the Curious Contentious story of Daylight Saving Time." "Farmers have newer methods of farming that really are not affected by sunrise times."
Prerau goes on to say that traffic incidents decrease, crime is decreased, people help the economy grow by shopping later and in general people are just happier to have longer nights.
Markey and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., point to studies conducted in the mid-1970s that suggested changing the clock reduced overall energy demand by about 1 percent each day, comparable to about 100,000 barrels of crude oil a day.
"It's preposterous," Downing said. "Instead by manipulating time it just reduces people's confidence in the government. It adds to cynicism."
But for critics of daylight-saving time, it appears to be too late to stop Congress from adding one more month to the program.