MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Do We Observe Daylight Savings Time?

Whether it’s “Springing Forward” or “Falling Back”, you’ve probably wondered at one point or another, “What even is Daylight Saving Time? And why does it exist?”

Founding father Benjamin Franklin was actually the first to suggest DST, back in 1784, as a money-saving ploy in one of his satirical essays. But, while Franklin was mostly joking, others who proposed the idea later on were 100% serious.

In 1916, when primarily coal-produced energy needed to be conserved during World War I, Germany was the first country to observe Daylight Saving Time. Great Britain & other countries in Europe followed suit before we got in on it here in the US in 1918. It got dropped pretty much everywhere after the war, but was revived only a few short decades later during World War II.

After that war ended, America once again abandoned Daylight Saving Time…well, sort of. You see, without any official legislation, the country fell into a sort of hodgepodge of conflicting practices. For instance: Iowa had twenty-three different pairs of start & end dates for Daylight Saving Time by 1965, while other areas of the US didn’t observe it at all.

So, in 1966, Congress ended all that madness when it passed the “Uniform Time Act”, which mandated that Daylight Saving Time would begin at 2am on the last Sunday in April & end at 2am on the last Sunday in October. Then, almost 40 years later, the 2005 “Energy Policy Act” extended Daylight Saving Time by shifting the dates to the 2nd Sunday of March & the 1st Sunday of November. Not all states & territories were actually required to observe it, however, and some decided not to. Heck, Arizona & Hawaii still don’t.

Throughout Daylight Saving Time’s history, its supposed benefits have always been that it cuts down on electricity use & conserves energy in general. But a lot of experts don’t actually think those facts check out. Some studies suggest that, while the extra daylight hour might decrease electricity use for lighting, it also means people could be keeping their air conditioners running more & actually increasing overall electricity usage. Never mind that it’s a major bummer losing an hour of sleep every Spring. Thankfully, though, we’re at the better end of the deal & get to claim an extra hour of shut-eye this weekend.

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me a message via social media (@AndyWebbRadioVoice), or shoot me an email at [email protected].

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