International: Fall back as Daylight Savings ends

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME WORLDWIDE: The “Spring Forward / Fall Back” system is used in the blue countries. The system has never been used in the red countries. The organge countries tried the back-and-forth system, at some point, but have stopped using it. For example, in 2011, Russia decided to keep its clocks permanently on DST. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.U.S. merchants pushed for Daylight Savings Time. This poster was distributed by a cigar company in 1918.SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 4: Don’t show up for Sunday services an hour early—turn your clocks backward!

Daylight Savings Time (DST) 2012 ends today, but the world is far from agreement on its benefits—or its future as a public policy. Many experts argue that switching back and forth from DST is a poor public policy and may cost more money than it saves. Some countries, including Russia in 2011, have simply decided to stick with the clock settings used in DST year round.

The U.S. history is checkered. DST was used in both 20th century world wars, but it wasn’t standard policy during most of our history. President George Bush was a recent proponent and signed into law an energy policy bill just seven years ago that extended Daylight Saving Time by four weeks. (Wikipedia has details.) A couple of states are bypassing the current DST policy: Hawaii and Arizona have exercised their right to opt out by passing a state law. In our color-coded map, above, you can see Arizona’s orange hue marks it as a former DST region. Hawaii isn’t shown on this map, but it would be orange as well. Nevertheless, the vast majority of states continue to acknowledge the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin’s 1784 suggestion. (Learn more at


It was a reasonable suggestion 228 years ago, when Ben Franklin observed that summer morning daylight hours were “wasted” by people sleeping in; in the evening, candles would be burned to illuminate nighttime activities. The problem came when seasons turned to autumn and winter, and the schedule “readjusted:” It was against human nature to change waking times (and still is).


On the contrary, dark mornings necessitate more heat. In the summer, when working folks arrive home an hour “earlier,” air conditioning is turned up because of proximity to mid-day heat. (A Wall Street Journal piece gives more examples.) Recent studies found that one season of DST in one state demanded an extra $9 million in energy bills annually and added 188,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Cost differences are most drastic in the fall.


More and more advocates are promoting a “permanent” DST, for practical, economical and environmental reasons. Iceland, Russia and Belarus are already observing permanent DST, and Argentina, Sudan, Georgia and other jurisdictions honor a similar system. The bottom line? Operating a society under “man-made” time, as opposed to solar time (in accordance with earth’s position to the sun), just isn’t cutting it anymore.

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