Daylight saving time doesn’t likely have a great many fans in Alaska. There are good reasons for that: The shift in daylight hours because of the time change in fall and spring makes little difference at high latitudes, and it can feel like all that residents get out of the twice-yearly clock exercise is a groggy transition period and a handful of missed appointments due to confusion. A bill by Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Anchorage, to abolish daylight time made it halfway through the Legislature. But Alaskans are waking up to the fact that eliminating the time change would introduce a great many new headaches.
Daylight saving time was approved by Congress in 1918 as a means of giving people an extra hour of daylight after returning home from work during summer. Intended to reduce the use of energy in evening hours, its benefits have been marginal, but the vast majority of North American and European countries now abide by the system.
In arguments for her bill that would put Alaska permanently on standard time, Sen. MacKinnon cited data and anecdotal evidence suggesting daylight time costs the nation millions of dollars in lost productivity and performance decreases in the days immediately after the time shift. She suggested that the stupor Alaskans feel as their body gets used to the time change could lead to more crashes on roads and in the workplace, causing injuries and even deaths. Who wouldn’t want to avoid that?
There’s a problem, however: Data enumerating the potential costs of adhering to daylight time assume the alternative would be to do away with the system completely nationwide. Were Alaska to adopt permanent standard time on its own, the state’s headaches because of daylight time would only increase. Several months of the year, Alaska would be five hours earlier than the East coast rather than four, and the time difference between Alaska and the Pacific time zone would ricochet back and forth between one and two hours.
Business-related tasks such as organizing conference calls would be even harder to accomplish. Broadcast schedules for TV and radio could face serious disruption. Those who make calls to the Eastern seaboard would have an even narrower window in the workday in which to do it. And if you think you’re tired after waking up the day after the time change, imagine how you would feel when a relative in the Lower 48 calls you at 3:30 a.m., forgetting about the even larger time difference.
Business groups, recognizing the costs the state would incur by cause of Sen. MacKinnon’s legislation, are lining up in opposition to the law.
Here in Fairbanks, too, there’s a somewhat sentimental reason to continue with the system we have: In abolishing daylight time in Alaska, Sen. MacKinnon’s bill would cut the Interior out of its status as the “land of the midnight sun.” On the summer solstice, the sun would set in Fairbanks at 11:47 p.m. under standard time. While that may seem a silly thing, consider this: One of Fairbanks’ signature summer events, the Alaska Goldpanners’ Midnight Sun Baseball Game, is traditionally played in its entirety without the aid of artificial light. If the sun set an hour earlier, it might be impossible for the game to be played in natural light unless its start time were moved earlier so that the game would finish before midnight.
It’s important to note that daylight time isn’t a perfect system, and if the U.S. as a whole were to abandon it, the problems Alaska would face as a consequence would largely be addressed. But rather than getting rid of the system and hoping other states do too, the Legislature might be better suited to call for the repeal of daylight time on a federal level. Going it alone, Alaska has little to gain and a lot to lose if other states don’t follow suit en masse. It’s not time for a change if we’re left on our own.
— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,