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Daylight Savings Time Ends This Weekend: Do We Really Need It?

Changing our clocks twice a year doesn't really save energy, for starters.

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Scott Gow cleans the faces of wall clocks that are being tested at the Electric Time Company in Medfield, Massachusetts. Daylight savings time in the U.S. ends at 2 a.m. local time on November 2.


It's that time again: Across most of the United States, daylight savings time (DST) will end at 2 a.m. on Sunday, November 2, when clocks will fall back to standard time.

Most American clocks will spring forward again in early 2015, when DST resumes on Sunday, March 8.

And, as in previous years, the approaching end of U.S. daylight savings time has sparked heated debate about the virtues of springing forward and falling back. (Related: "Time to Move On? The Case Against Daylight Saving Time.")

Take the population of Utah, a majority of whom would rather drop DST, according to a summer online opinion poll on the future of timekeeping in Utah, conducted by the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED).

Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed want to ditch daylight savings time and adopt Mountain Standard Time year-round, as neighboring Arizona does.

"There are very strong voices on all sides of this question. We got close to 14,000 written comments, and if you add them together, they are are almost the length of War and Peace," said the GOED's Michael O'Malley.

"The strong, repetitive drumbeat in those comments was convenience," he explained. "Many people don't want to move their clocks, whether it's backwards, forwards, or sideways. They just want to pick a time and stick with it."

Initiatives to adopt, alter, or abolish daylight savings time certainly aren't anything new. In fact, a dozen or more are introduced in various state legislatures each and every year, said Tufts University professor Michael Downing, author of the 2009 book Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time.

More Time to Play

Recently, though, the debate over DST seems to have changed in one significant way, Downing noted.

"As far as I'm aware, there is no longer much real reference to energy savings," he said. "That issue seems to have entirely dried up, and people seem to have figured out that this really isn't an energy-saving project." (Related: "Extended Daylight Saving Time Not an Energy Saver?")

For example, in Rocky Mountain Power's response to the Utah survey, the utility company stressed that temperature, not daylight, drives customer use of electricity.

The main argument for keeping DST these days, Downing said, is one of dollars and cents—the economic boons of extra evening daylight.

"The financial factor is dependent on the fact that we change—not just the availability of more light in the evening," he explained.

"The sudden change seems to alert people to the possibility of being outdoors, doing things, and spending money. That's what's always been the trigger."

For instance, in Utah, most government agencies and associations representing interest groups, such as golfers, favored DST in the summer survey, O'Malley said.

"We found that if you are involved in tourism and recreation, it's highly likely you want to retain the current system," O'Malley said. (How much energy do you use? Check out National Geographic's personal energy meter.)

"For example, the Golf Alliance for Utah estimated that dropping DST would reduce play by 6 percent during peak season, and cost Utah's economy $24 million each year, and they claim that is a very conservative estimate."

More Daylight Savings Time?

Across the nation, other groups offer similarly dire economic warnings.

"These are lobbies that are actively pursuing increasing the period of DST," Downing explained. (See "Permanent Daylight Saving Time? Might Boost Tourism, Efficiency.")

"The biggest one [in] the past few years has been the National Association of Convenience Stores, because 80 percent of our gasoline is bought in convenience stores, and when you give people in America more sunlight at the end of the day, we love to get into our cars and drive somewhere."

Several Utah legislators have vowed to introduce DST-related legislation in January.

It hasn't been determined what they'll propose, but O'Malley said the two most likely options would be a move to permanent Mountain Standard Time or a ballot referendum with a number of timekeeping options.

While Utah's future schedule remains in flux, other areas of the U.S. already avoid daylight savings time, which isn't mandated by the federal government.

For instance, residents of Arizona (except those living on the Navajo Nation), Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Marianas Islands won't need to change their clocks this weekend.

What do you think about daylight savings time? Offer your comments below.

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