The Shocking Truth about Daylight Saving Time

You’ll be surprised to see who really profits from “springing forward.”

By Leah Zerbe

Photography by Getty Images


what's the deal with daylight saving time?Okay, so the time change is a flop in terms of saving energy. At least it helps the farmers, right? Not so much. “Farmers were vociferously opposed to Daylight Saving Time. They hated it from the start,” explains Downing. “Farmers really used morning sunlight. Turning the clocks ahead had the effect of giving them one less hour of daylight.”

Even today, many farmers lament this time of year because it disrupts their schedules and connection to the natural world. “That dramatic change from having the daylight in the morning to suddenly going back to darkness, it’s kind of jolting,” says sustainable farmer Zach Lester, cofounder of Tree and Leaf Farm in Unionville, Virginia. His customers are affected by the change, too. When Lester goes to market the Sunday morning following the time change, shoppers generally start rolling in about an hour later. 

So what is the point of Daylight Saving Time?

Money, money, money, money!

The Chamber of Commerce was an early supporter of extending post-workday natural light because they knew factory workers were more likely to go shopping following shift work if the sun was still shining. Later on, people were more likely to fill up the tank and head to sporting events or the mall, which to this day greatly benefits the oil industry.

Because so much extra gas is sold during Daylight Saving Time, the lobby representing convenience stores—places that sell tons of gas—are among the biggest backers of keeping the time change intact.

Downing says the golf-course industry also loves Daylight Saving Time, because it’s the one sport where it still isn’t economical to use artificial lighting to extend hours. “The golf industry makes about $200 to $400 million in extra greens fees during Daylight Saving Time,” he notes.

Most of the country runs on Daylight Saving Time today, with the exception of Hawaii, a state with nearly equal day-length year-round, and Arizona, which refuses to adopt it. But things weren’t always this uniform. 

After initially adopting it as a wartime-only policy during World War I, New York decided to bring Daylight Saving Time back after the war and adopted a metropolitan Daylight Saving Time law for the city only in 1920. Cities ran on it; suburbs did not. “Because it was such a powerful influence on the economy, almost every city from Chicago eastward immediately adopted it,” Downing says. By 1921, though, Massachusetts boasted the only statewide policy, leaving a patchwork of times across the country for the next 10 years. “Trains were unable to keep schedule; all transportation was thrown off by this,” Downing explains. “By 1965, 100 million Americans were changing their clocks and 80 million were not.”