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What's the Word On: Daylight Saving Time

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What's the Word On: Daylight Saving Time

Q: Why does Daylight Saving Time start on March 11 this year?

A: During debate on the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress expanded incentives for renewable, home-grown energy and traditional, domestic energy supplies to lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil and strengthen national economic, environmental and security interests. To bolster energy efficiency and conservation efforts, Congress also added four extra weeks to Daylight Saving Time (DST) effective in 2007. Starting this year Iowans will need to adjust their clocks and spring ahead on the second Sunday in March instead of the first Sunday in April. And later this year, people will fall back to Standard Time the first Sunday in November instead of the last Sunday in October. Moving the clock ahead creates an ‘extra" hour of daylight in the evening hours when most people return home from school and work. Government studies have shown energy savings are achieved by advancing the clock ahead during the spring and summer months. Following the 1973 oil embargo, Congress extended the time change from six to eight months in 1974 and 1975. The U.S. Department of Transportation calculated the change saved the energy equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil a day. By shifting an hour of daylight to the evening, people are able to squeeze energy savings out of the sun's rays simply by not flipping on the light switch as soon as they return home.

Q: Is this a permanent change?

A: Not necessarily. The U.S. Department of Energy must report to Congress with findings about energy savings attributable to the four-week extension. Obviously, Congress may change the law in the future to reflect the study's findings or in response to unfavorable public opinion. Since Benjamin Franklin first advocated the idea, daylight-saving time has been a controversial issue. As a farmer, I'm used to keeping time by the sun. While working in Washington, I always keep my watch set to Iowa's time zone. In our modern and mobile society, transportation, communications and interstate commerce depend on the continuity of standardized time. Some Iowans may recall when daylight-saving time was not standardized and our state alone had 23 different sets of start and end dates for switching from standard to daylight-saving time. I agree with parents and educators who are concerned each year about its impact on young children. Springing ahead one hour always takes some time to get in the groove. One advantage for kids from the extended time change in October is an extra hour of daylight for trick-or-treating. Certainly this year Iowans need to take a few extra precautions to ensure automated time systems on their computers, cell phones and electronic appliances at home and small businesses are adjusted to reflect the earlier date for switching to DST. And don't forget it's still a good idea to check and replace batteries in your home's smoke alarms as you "spring ahead" in March and "fall back" in November.

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