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Thoughts on The Sunshine Protection Act

Daylights savings time is a practice that was was first enacted during World War I to conserve the fuel needed in Austria and Germany to produce electric power. By moving the clock forward several hours, soldiers were able to work well into the night with enough daylight to eliminate the need for fuel. Soon, other European countries followed suit and on March 19, 1918, the United States formally adopted 'An Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States'. The United States shares the practice of imposing daylight savings time with about 70 other countries, including most of North America, Europe, and parts of South America and New Zealand.

From the onset of this policy, it has been overwhelmingly unpopular with Americans and has undergone over a dozen iterations to correct or abolish the twice-yearly time changes altogether. 

The current, anecdotal discussion around this subject includes a variety of topics that impact our daily lives. For example, parents often report a several week disruption of sleep patterns among their toddlers and newborns as they adjust to a slightly altered clock. Many doctors report seeing an increase in sickness, ranging from mild cold and flu symptoms to higher incidents of heart attack and stroke. Further, some reports indicate an increase in car accidents, falls, and workplace injuries in the weeks following the spring or fall time change. It is important to note that these reports are not backed by any hard scientific data and do not consider the myriad of extraneous factors that can lead to periodic spikes in such incidents. Still, it is hard to discount that an unnatural push to change our circadian rhythms twice a year could be at play in some of these instances.

Interestingly, debate around this subject is currently taking place in Congress. On March 15, 2022, the United States Senate passed the “Sunshine Protection Act” by unanimous consent. According to congess.gov, “This bill makes daylight saving time the new, permanent standard time, effective November 5, 2023.” 

Below are ways that the “Sunshine Protection Act” could impact various industries in the US. 

  • Restaurant, Hospitality and Hotel Industry 
    The hospitality industry was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and continues to work diligently to bounce completely back. Provisions and considerations in the “Sunshine Protection Act” seem to specifically address ways to help this industry get back on its feet. First, permanently having more daylight hours at the end of the day correlates with consumers staying up later and spending more money after work. Second, serving alcohol during daylight hours is also shown to increase the total amount of spending on food at restaurants, hotels, and through delivery services like DoorDash and Uber Eats. Finally, serving alcohol during daylight hours also increases the total dollars spent on ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft. Since the hospitality industry is still having trouble bouncing back from the pandemic, passing the “Sunshine Protection Act” would be welcome news to most in that sector. 

  • Agricultural Industry
    Lobbyists for the Agricultural industry worked very hard to convince their senators to adapt this bill to increase the productivity and decrease the logistical disruptions to their supply chains. According to Marco Rubio, the representatives from the U.S. Agricultural industry feel that maintaining daylight savings time “Benefits the agricultural economy, which is disproportionately disrupted by biannual changes in time by upsetting the synergy between farmers’ schedules and their supply chain partners.”

  • Reduction in Use of Electrical Energy
    Just as in 1918, it is still a good argument that longer daylight hours lead to increased human productivity with less need for artificial light, heat, and air. While this is not true in all parts of our country (for example, areas of Alaska will still experience periods of 24-hour darkness several times a year), there are many areas of our country where major energy consumption should reduce based on one hour of additional sunlight each evening. A 2008 study by the U.S. Department of Energy found that during the 4 weeks the U.S. extended daylight savings from a 2005 law, there were savings of about 0.5 percent in electricity per day. Later studies have also shown that the energy savings are less profound, but a small savings does occur. 

  • National Association of Convenience Stores
    Another prominent lobbying group pushing for the adoption of permanent daylight savings time is the National Association of Convenience stores. This association, made up of independent hardware, grocery, and retail stores, sees a consistent uptick in sales in all of their retail stores during the summer months when daylight is extended and consumers are more comfortable driving around at night. 

    The downside to the push from this specific industry is the obvious negative impact on fuel consumption. The Tufts university professor and author Michael Downing, who has spent decades studying and writing about the impact of daylight savings time and its impact on the economy, explained, “Here's the problem with Daylight Saving as an energy-saver: It really pushes Americans out of the house at the end of the day. And when Americans go out of the house, they may go to the ballpark, they may go to the mall, but they don't walk there. They get into their cars. Daylight Saving increases gasoline consumption, something the petroleum industry has known since 1930.”

The next step in this process is for the House of Representatives to pass the “Sunshine Protection Act” in order for it to go into law by November of 2023. Though the bill remains supported by both sides of the aisle, the priority assigned to this legislation is likely to hold it up for a few months. We should anticipate that we will “fall back” again this fall, but that may be the last time we experience this in our lifetimes. Either way, it is an interesting topic because those one-hour shifts can have a material impact on our lives and the economy.

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