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Lighten up (continued)

Q: What kind of controversies continue to surround this issue?

A: One of the biggest controversies right now is in Indiana. Most of Indiana is in the Eastern time zone, and that part decided not to be on daylight saving time. Theyíre one of the three states that donít have daylight time. However, the two western corners ó the northwest near Chicago and the southwest near Evansville ó are both in Central time, and they are on daylight time. In addition to that, five counties in the southeast of Indiana, though theyíre in the Eastern time zone of Indiana and officially are on Standard time all year, they all go to daylight time unofficially because theyíre actually suburbs of cities like Cincinnati, Ohio, or Louisville, Kentucky. So itís been an issue of contention for 20 years in Indiana. Right now thereís a new governor who just took office in January, and heís going to try to push to get daylight saving time in Indiana to make it conform to most of the rest of the country. So itís going to be a big issue in the Indiana legislature.

Q: You mentioned the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of the 1970s. Can you imagine emergency measures like that being taken in the future?

A: In fact, in 1991, there was a big power crisis in California. There were all sorts of measures proposed to try to alleviate some of the problems there, and one of the things that was proposed in Congress was to extend daylight saving time in California. That actually passed a Congressional subcommittee. By the time the law got to the main committee for possibility of passage, the power crisis had subsided somewhat, so the pressure went away and it never got passed. But it shows that Congress is ready, even now, to use daylight saving time if an energy crisis or any other reason comes up to use it. Itís a tool thatís available right now. Bills keep getting put into Congress every year to extend daylight saving time, and that might happen at any time.

Q: The press materials for the book say that itís "the first book to look at the intriguing and entertaining story of our attempt to regulate the sunlight hours." But actually, another book is just now coming out on the same subject, called Spring Forward. Do you think thereís a new interest in this subject?

A: There might be. I hope there is. As I said, itís something that is proposed in Congress all the time. The last extension was 20 years ago, so the time may be right at this point to consider a possible extension of Daylight Saving Time again. The technical study that we did in the í70s actually said that we should have daylight saving time in at least most of March. Right now it starts the first Sunday in April. So it might be time to reconsider that possibility.

Q: Tell me how DST has affected Massachusetts over the years.

A: When the daylight saving time movement was just starting in the United States, one of the top two or three leaders in the country was A. Lincoln Filene, who was one of the two brothers who were running Fileneís department stores at that time. He got the Boston Chamber of Commerce to set up a committee to study daylight saving time with himself as chairman, and the committee came out with a report called "An Hour of Light for an Hour of Night," in which it strongly supported having Daylight Saving Time. Eventually Filene also testified in front of Congress, when Congress was debating whether to go on to daylight saving time, and that led to the first enactment of daylight saving time in the United States, which was in 1918.

Another thing that affected Massachusetts was after World War I, national daylight saving time was repealed, and every state or city could do whatever it wanted related to daylight saving time. After that repeal, Massachusetts was the first state to enact statewide daylight saving time. So it was the leader in the daylight saving time movement back in 1920.

Q: Why do you think people complain so much about having to set the clock ahead in April? It seems like losing one hour of sleep on a single night is worth the extra hour of daylight in the evening.

A: Yes, well, itís a disruption to peopleís way of doing things. Winston Churchill, one of the early supporters of daylight saving time back in 1910, said something like, "We invest an hour of sleep in the spring, and we get it back with golden interest in the fall." Thatís the idea, that it really is a minor effect compared to the benefit that we get the entire spring and summer.

David Prerau reads from Seize the Daylight at Borders in Chestnut Hill on March 31 at 7:30 p.m. Call (617) 630-1120. For information on Seize the Daylight, visit www.seizethedaylight.com. Tamara Wieder can be reached at twieder[a]phx.com

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Issue Date: April 1 - 7, 2005
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