Russ Diamond: Pa. should lead the charge on banning daylight saving time
This weekend, we again will be forced to comply with an archaic tradition, one that offers no benefits. In fact, “springing forward and falling back” comes with many consequences at significant cost. If that’s not enough to make you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, remember that you’ll also be losing an hour of sleep as we revert to daylight saving time (DST).
Launched during World War I as an attempt to save energy, DST has outlived its usefulness. I have drafted legislation to permanently place Pennsylvania on Eastern standard time. Energy savings from changing clocks has historically been negligible at best. Due to the proliferation of air-conditioning, energy usage during DST may actually increase. The phaseout of incandescent bulbs further minimizes energy differentials. Office buildings, manufacturing facilities, retail stores, and other workplaces remain climate controlled and/or illuminated by energy efficient lighting day and night.
There is no national crisis that changing clocks helps to alleviate. In fact, there are more negative side effects from changing clocks than benefits. Studies have shown that automobile accidents, workplace injuries, heart attacks, strokes, cluster headaches, miscarriages, depression, and suicides all increase in the weeks following clock changes.
This government-mandated interruption of natural biological rhythms and sleep cycles can wreak havoc on job performance, academic results, and overall physical/mental health. Clock changes require farmers to make needless adjustments, as crops and animals live by the sunlight. A 2016 study of 300 U.S. metropolitan areas, based on evidence from peer-reviewed academic journals by Chmura Economics and Analytics, found that $434 million in annual economic losses are realized in those metro areas due to DST. Every Pennsylvania metro area included in the study indicated a negative economic impact from DST. A 2008 report by the Independent Institute estimated that the annual U.S. “opportunity cost” of changing clocks could be as high as $1.7 billion. Changing clocks twice every year simply because “we’ve always done it that way” is not enough reason to continue the practice. Federal law allows a state to exempt itself from observing DST, upon action by the state legislature to do so. In recent years, legislation to end the observance of DST has been introduced in a number of states (up to 16 in 2017).
As the Keystone State, Pennsylvania should be the leader among surrounding states in eliminating DST. The state has the power to influence full conversion to Eastern Standard Time by surrounding states as it serves as a major transportation and distribution hub for the Eastern Seaboard. The commonwealth has three major ports (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Erie) and ranks ninth in the country for volume of goods moved through its ports, which is more than 100 million tons of goods coming and going.
Some may assume that adopting permanent DST is more appealing due to the emotional romanticism of summertime activities during the other three seasons. However, given that Pennsylvania is geographically situated roughly between the 75th and 80th parallels, our traditional schedules as they relate to winter daylight, and the natural idea that noon should approximate the time of the sun’s zenith (hence, “midday”), Eastern standard time is the logical preference. During this legislative session, I will be working to advance this commonsense legislation that will not only end the antiquated ritual of changing clocks, but will also help preserve the health, safety, well-being, productivity, and lives of Pennsylvanians.