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Daylight saving time: What if it's all a big fat waste of time?

March 10, 2012|By Rene Lynch
  • It's daylight saving time: Don't forget to "spring forward" the clocks this weekend by one hour.
It's daylight saving time: Don't forget to "spring forward"… (Associated Press / Matt…)

Daylight saving time begins this weekend. From coast to coast, most Americans will dutifully "spring forward" by one hour early Sunday morning. We're told this helps save energy and allows us to enjoy more sunshine during the summer months.

But a number of critics say this is all a big fat waste of time. Daylight saving time does nothing but create chaos and confusion, they say, and might actually waste more energy than it tries to save. It should be abandoned immediately, they contend.

So who's right?

"Who knows," said John Lowe, the nation's timekeeper. "It can be very controversial."

Lowe heads the time and frequency services group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the federal agency responsible for, among other things, maintaining the official time in the United States.

Oddly enough, this will be a quiet weekend for Lowe. That's because the time on Lowe's clock never changes. We use his clock to make sure our respective clocks are correct, and then use that to calculate time changes -- Eastern standard time, daylight saving time, etc.

Many places in the world don't bother shifting the clocks. The United States began observing daylight saving time during World War I, seeing it as a way to preserve energy. (More light in the evening means less electricity used.) An added benefit is that the change allowed many Americans to enjoy more sunshine during the warmer months.

But opponents say such factors no longer apply in today's 24/7 culture.

Critics, including those behind the online petition at End Daylight Saving Time, say the time shifting causes more problems than it's worth by making it exceedingly difficult for businesses to coordinate timetables with markets in Asia and Africa and Europe.

"If we are saving energy let's go year round with daylight saving time. If we are not saving energy let's drop daylight saving time!" challenges the site, which urges people to contact their elected leaders to put an end to the nonsense.

There are also some suggestions that the time shift unnecessarily tinkers with our internal biorhythms and sleep patterns. That, in turn, leaves us sleep deprived and susceptible to all sorts of problems including anxiety and increased risk of heart attack and car accidents.

And who hasn't missed an important meeting or botched an appointment because they forgot to change one key clock -- such as the one on the car dashboard?

The video above is a touch long, but you won't notice the time whizzing by: It does an excellent and entertaining job at explaining the complications that such time shifting entails.

"It's hard to say who's right," Lowe told The Times. "It's great to get home and still have it be sunlight. But it's also great to wake up in the morning and see sunlight. I guess it depends upon whether you are a morning person or an evening person. It's difficult to judge if it saves energy, or increases or decreases safety."

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