Europeans will lose an hour of sleep this Sunday, something most Americans did three weeks ago. And in the fall they’ll get it back a week before their US counterparts.
So why this trans-Atlantic divide?
Look no further than the US golf and barbecue industries.
For years, the United States changed its clocks in late April and late October, but that changed in 1986 when lawmakers heard from lobbyists that more daylight means more money, explained writer Michael Downing.
According to Downing — author of “Spring Forward, The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time” — the industry claimed “one more month of daylight savings meant $200 million more in selling of barbecues and charcoal.”
“For the golf industry, one more month of daylight savings meant $400 million more in green fees and equipment sales,” he said, adding “and that was the industry estimate 25 years ago.”
The spring change was moved to early April, which, for many years, put the US in line with its European counterparts.
But in 2005, the time change was bumped up a second time: springing forward to the second Sunday in March and falling back the first Sunday in November.
This added three weeks of daylight savings in the spring, and an extra week in the fall.
Chambers of commerce and big supermarket chains helped pressure Congress into making the change, hoping an additional hour of light at the end of the day would encourage Americans to stop by stores on the way home after work.
The confectionery industry meanwhile can take credit for that additional week in the autumn, explained Downing, who teaches creative writing at Tufts University in Boston.
“The candy-makers have long wanted to have Halloween’s trick-or-treat covered by daylight savings, for the children to be able to collect more candy,” he said.
However, at least one US industry objected to the most recent change: the airlines.
“They had to reschedule the flights take off and landing times for international flights that had been fixed for years around. It cost the industry $200 to $400 million,” Downing explained.
The United States used a two-year implementation delay in a bid to convince other countries to follow suit in an attempt to smooth things over. The cajoling didn’t work.
Complicating the daylight saving dilemma further is that every US state can decide for itself whether to follow along.
Those shunning the system are Hawaii — which enjoys sunshine all year round — and Arizona, known for its sizzling summers.