Daylight savings changes

Posted: Sunday, August 14, 2005

The following editorial first appeared in the Anchorage Daily News:

As writer Lewis Carroll might put it, O Frabjous Day! The new energy law will extend daylight-saving time one month, starting it in late March and ending it in early November.

Right now daylight-saving begins at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and ends at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday of October. The change is part of the energy bill and, beginning in 2007, would start daylight time three weeks earlier and add a week at the end.

Though Alaska has no shortage of daylight during the summer months - and the change has more nuisance value than anything - the state goes along with it just to keep the time difference between here and the East Coast to four hours instead of five.

At one time Alaska alone had four time zones, with a two-hour difference just between Anchorage and Juneau. The East Coast was five hours ahead of Anchorage. Then in 1983 the state switched to two time zones. Now most of Alaska is in the Alaska Time Zone. The far reaches of the Aleutian Chain and St. Lawrence Island are in the Hawaiian-Aleutian Time Zone, an hour later than Anchorage.

Some experts worry that changing the existing formula for beginning and ending daylight time will cause problems for preset computers, cell phone companies that give free calls for weekend users and more. There isn't likely to be the kind of panic caused when somebody figured out that the year 2000 could cause problems for computers all over the world - especially because that worry proved to be overblown.

Home users of devices that record television shows on a pre-established schedule may have to make manual changes. And since many still can't set the clock on a VCR, that could be a problem.

The logic of changing the clocks at all escapes us; it apparently relates to the United States' physical proximity to the Prime Meridian. Daylight Saving reduces power use in many parts of the country, but why not use it all year instead of just eight months? Then we wouldn't have to fiddle with the time at all and could avoid that loss of an hour in the springtime, when the clocks are set ahead.

The daylight saving time that most Alaskans would like to see would be one that retained some of our excess summer sunlight for use in the short days of winter.

Alas, Congress hasn't figured out a way to do that yet.

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