The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

Local News

November 7, 2010

Daylight-saving time? Ben Franklin's bright idea

HUNTSVILLE — This is the time of year when we become painfully aware of how many clocks are in our homes, a product of daylight-saving time and the process of adjusting our clocks to “fall” back one hour.

There’s one on the microwave, oven, coffee maker, computers, televisions, and an alarm clock in each bedroom. The list seems to go on forever. And each year we ask ourselves, “Who came up with this idea? Is this really necessary?”

As it turns out, daylight-saving time was first introduced to the world by Benjamin Franklin. In his essay “The Economic Project,” which he wrote during his time in Paris, he complained of being awoken by the early morning sun and decided he had a logical remedy. By simply moving the clocks one hour forward he would not only be permitted to sleep later, but he also calculated that the Parisians would save “an immense sum” of candle wax by postponing sundown.

Franklin’s idea fell on deaf ears for more than a century, until British builder William Willett successfully proposed Daylight Saving Time to Parliament after coming to the disappointing realization that the British were “wasting daylight” by not waking up until after the sun had risen. Parliament eventually passed a law requiring the British to “spring” their clocks forward in April and then “fall back” in the winter.

Americans adopted the idea in 1918, hoping to bask in the sunshine, while also embracing Franklin’s practical concern of energy conservation.  In fact, during World War II, a year-round daylight-saving plan, “War Time,” was put into place in an effort to decrease fuel consumption.

Throughout the 1900s, though, there existed a political tug-of-war between the proponents and dissenters of Daylight Saving Time. At one point, the law was repealed, leaving it up to state and local governments to decide whether to observe the practice.  This quickly became a problem for travelers. For instance, in the 1960s, someone driving the 25-mile stretch of Route 2 from Moundsville, West Virginia to Steubenville, Ohio went through seven time zones. This inconsistency throughout the country is what caused many to support the reinstatement of Daylight Saving Time and led to the Time Act of 1966.

A study by the Department of Transportation in the 1970s indicated that saving daylight did, in fact, conserve energy, and this study was cited when Congress extended the practice in 2005, adding a month of longer evenings.

Not all studies, however, have come to the same conclusion.  A 2006 study concluded that it did not just fail to conserve energy, but caused the state to use even more energy. By switching to Daylight Saving Time the savings of the lighting costs in the evenings were outweighed by the cost of heating in the mornings and air conditioners in the afternoons. A study done in Australia one year later had similar findings.

Apart from the question of energy conservation, some people oppose it simply because they find it inconvenient.   Many find it difficult to make the time adjustments twice a year.  Sharon Gee of the Dallas Business Journal, for example, wrote that she’s “one of those folks who get a bad case of jet lag every time we ‘spring forward’ in April.” But it’s not just personal for Gee; she also noted that studies have shown that productivity wanes as people adjust to the time shifts. One such study found that the disruption in sleep patterns can “persist for up to five days after each time shift.”

Of course, some people are confused because they simply forget to set their clocks. My family, for example, typically marked Daylight Saving Time by arriving to church at the wrong time the next day.  Some students at SHSU have been known to miss class “because they forgot to reset their clocks,” although the pervasiveness of cell phones has forced students to rely more heavily on old standbys such as sick grandmothers, flat tires, and strep throat.  

In some cases, the confusion is both real and dramatic.  Perhaps no case demonstrates this better than a planned terrorist attack on Israel in 1999.  After setting their time bombs, terrorists set out to deliver their explosive devices to a bus, which they planned to blow up, killing dozens of innocent Israelis.  Apparently, they forgot to accommodate Daylight Saving Time, and ended up blowing up themselves when the bomb went off an hour earlier than expected.  

Despite the drawbacks of Daylight Saving Time, there seem to be plenty of people who enjoy the benefits. The longer evenings, for instance, allow for more relaxation by the pool or enjoying the outdoors. And Americans love summer days, when evenings are filled with barbecues, socializing and family fun.

So maybe Franklin and Willett were on to something.  What other plan can produce energy savings, long summer evenings and occasionally foil terrorist plots?

Dana Angello is a political science major at Sam Houston State University and is vice-president of the Political Science Junior Fellows.

Text Only
Local News
  • 4-24 Relay.jpg Walking, dining with purpose

    Folks are gearing up for this year’s Walker County Relay For Life on May 2 and festivities get underway this weekend when a special group of people will be honored.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • American dream to become reality

    What happens to a dream when it’s shelved? Will it cause the dreamer to loose faith in themselves?
    Huntsville resident Laura Delfin grew tired of wondering these very questions. She had deferred her dream of becoming a United States citizen for the last 10 years.

    April 23, 2014

  • Texas Bankers Hall of Fame names four honorees

    The selection committee of the Texas Bankers Hall of Fame announced the selection of Tieman H. Dippel Jr., Tom C. Frost, Joseph M. Grant and Rogers Pope Sr. as this year’s honorees to be inducted Thursday in the Lowman Ballroom of Sam Houston State University.

    April 23, 2014

  • Literary scholar named SHSU humanities, social sciences dean

    Abbey Zink, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, has been appointed the dean of Sam Houston State University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

    April 23, 2014

  • 4-23-the-hive-Behind-The-Hive.jpg THE HIVE: Behind the scenes at The Hive

    The Hive is about more than just journalism. It’s about expanding horizons.
    Being a part of a broadcast journalism team is a huge step for many students.
    Some students come equipped with a level of charisma that makes it easy to be on camera, others really have to push themselves.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-23-hive-GGs-Spring-Show-Dress-Rehearsal.jpg THE HIVE: May we have this dance?

    Recently, the Huntsville High School Grenadier Guards traveled to Galveston to compete in the Showtime International National dance competition. The dance team took home a national first-place award for team modern, and national second-place awards for team pom, contemporary and open.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-23-the-hive-CTE-Goes-CSI.jpg THE HIVE: CTE goes CSI

    Some students in the CTE Department’s (Career and Technology Education) forensics class at Huntsville High School got a chance last week to get “hands on” at the Brayton Fire Training Field in College Station.
    With simulated crime scenes, demonstrations of arson investigation techniques, students got up close and personal with authentic crime scene situations.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-23-the-hive-MTB-article-picture.jpg THE HIVE: Hornet mountain bikers make strong showing

    It’s 10 o’clock on Sunday morning.
    With cloudy skies and heavy air, members of the Huntsville High School mountain bike team line up at the starting line. With adrenaline pumping and legs eager to start pedaling, the bell sounds.
    They’re off.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-23-Davison,-Brent.jpg Infant stable, but still critical

    A 2-month-old baby who was found unresponsive at a Huntsville residence last week is in stable but critical condition at a Houston hospital.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Historian: Let’s talk about civil rights in Huntsville

    In 1965, the civil rights movement made its way to the city of Huntsville, beginning with a sit-in at the Cafe Raven, a popular restaurant at the time.
    To celebrate next year’s 50th anniversary of the move toward racial integration, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum will be hosting an oral history event for citizens and senior citizens to get together and share their accounts of the civil rights movement in Huntsville on Thursday night at 7.

    April 22, 2014


House Ads
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
SKorea Ferry Toll Hits 156, Search Gets Tougher Video Shows Possible Syrian Gas Attack Cubs Superfans Celebrate Wrigley's 100th Raw: Cattle Truck Overturns in Texas Admirers Flock to Dole During Kansas Homecoming Raw: Erupting Volcanoes in Guatemala and Peru Alibaba IPO Could Be Largest Ever for Tech Firm FBI Joining Probe of Suburban NY 'Swatting' Call U.S. Paratroopers in Poland, Amid Ukraine Crisis US Reviews Clemency for Certain Inmates Raw: Violence Erupts in Rio Near Olympic Venue Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide