Why do we change our clocks twice each year for daylight savings time? When it was implemented a century ago, the idea was to save electricity. In the summer months, delaying sunset by an hour should mean less use of electric lights. And with electric lights being horrifically inefficient 100 years ago, that meant a substantial energy savings. (Keeping the clocks set an hour ahead year-round would save even more energy, but it meant more people going to work and to school before sunrise, so that was only implemented during times of war or critical energy shortage.)
But times have changed. Modern electric lights are far more efficient. And we now have air conditioning, which didn’t exist when daylight saving time was introduced. Although air conditioners are getting progressively more energy efficient, keeping the air cool is a huge consumer of electricity.
So there’s a good argument to be made that whatever benefit daylight saving time might have had once, we should stop using it now. And thankfully, a state legislator has decided to do something about it. Unfortunately, Rep. Russ Diamond, a Republican from Lebanon County, is taking the wrong approach.
Mr. Diamond is pushing legislation that would simply put Pennsylvania on Eastern Standard Time year-round, eliminating the annual switch to Eastern Daylight Time in the spring and back the Eastern Standard Time in the fall. But here’s the problem: Every one of Pennsylvania’s neighbors is in the Eastern time zone and every one of them recognizes daylight saving time. And that’s especially a problem since our state’s largest city, Philadelphia, has many of its suburbs in New Jersey and Delaware. Time zone boundaries are deliberately kept away from major metropolitan areas precisely because it would be a problem to have part of a metro area be an hour off the other part.
Thankfully, there are other ways to achieve the goal of eliminating daylight saving time.One would be for Congress to pass a law eliminating daylight saving time nationwide.
It would be a rare opportunity to accomplish something that isn’t a partisan issue, which is reason enough to take this up.
But if Congress won’t act, there’s another way to do it: an interstate compact. Pennsylvania could propose an agreement with Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut for all five states to abandon daylight savings time at once. It could be written so it only takes effect when all five states agree to it. This would ensure that the Philadelphia and New York metropolitan areas would not be split across two time zones. Other states could then join in if they want.
Congress doesn’t need to approve this; the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1893 that interstate compacts don’t require congressional approval unless they increase the power of states at the expense of the federal government.
If Mr. Diamond wants to end daylight saving time in Pennsylvania, he should go back to the drawing board and draft a new bill for an interstate compact — or he should ask Congress to take this on. His bill that would split the Philadelphia metro area is the wrong approach to this.
The preceding editorial is the opinion of The Elizabethtown Advocate. Other opinions on this page are those of individual contributors. The Advocate aims to give its readers a wide variety of opinions.