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Daylight Savings - Women, Children & the Politics of Daylight Savings Time

Corporate Profits, Not Interests of Women & Children, Behind Daylight Savings

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Updated November 04, 2010
What do women's issues have to do with Daylight Savings Time (DST)? Quite a lot if you want to learn how something as simple as determining when the sun rises and sets can become so politicized. (Although the correct term is Daylight Saving Time, since most Americans use the plural Daylight 'Savings' we'll go with the incorrect but commonly used phrase.)

The Darker Side of Daylight Savings

The story behind DST is a cautionary tale that exposes two hard truths: the influence of lobbyists on legislative decision-making, and what happens when common sense and the needs of parents, women and children are superseded by corporate interests.

Such political decisions not only restructure our daily lives but create additional obstacles for American families. The result is a contentious legacy that has burdened working mothers for decades; yet it's gone largely unchallenged because we erroneously believe in myths that are unproven and claims that are unsubstantiated. Both mask the true objectives of DST legislation.

Keeping Kids in the Dark

It's particularly ironic that the most punitive aspects of Daylight Savings Time roughly coincide with Election Day in the United States. The example below drives this point home.

When my daughter heads off to school these days, she does so in the dark. The bus comes at 6:50 am every day, but today the sun rose at 7:43 am. She's lucky compared to kids in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the sun rose at 8:21 am today.

For weeks now, millions of children have been waking up to darkness. They board the bus, take public transportation, walk to school – all before daybreak. Not until 2 a.m. this Saturday, when we 'fall back' to standard time, will daylight return to the hours we call "morning."

Mothers concerned about the safety of their children in the pre-dawn darkness have Congress to thank for their fears. In the past two rounds of "let there light" legislation, federal policymakers have been spurred on by the golf, barbecue and candy industries. They sought to reengineer night and day not to protect our children but to sell more golf clubs, charcoal briquettes, and candy corn.

DST and the Myth of Energy Savings

A law passed as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 mandated that Daylight Savings Time be extended an additional month starting in 2007 – an increase from 7 to 8 months. In March of that year, DST began three weeks earlier in the spring and ended one week later in the fall.

Implemented under the guise of conserving energy, DST does not appear to have done so, a fact verified by two separate studies: one conducted by the National Bureau of Standards in 1976 and the other by economists at UC Santa Barbara in 2008. An op-ed in US News & World Report highlights the latter's findings:

Daylight Saving Time raises energy usage overall because the potential savings from replacing artificial light with sunlight at the end of a summer's day are more than offset by the increased residential use of air conditioning (and of heating, as temperatures cool later in the season).
So what has Daylight Savings done for the US? It has boosted the bottom line of select industries that have convinced legislators to cater to their whims. Today those industries rake in millions of additional dollars during those extra weeks of daylight Congress handed over.

It's important to note that the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) went on record as opposing the change, worried that the danger to children would be increased as they headed to school in the dark mornings.

Next page: Daylight Savings Time and the Influence of Special Interests

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