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Alaskans will change clocks this weekend

Posted: Friday, April 02, 2004

There's a good chance some Kenai Peninsula residents will find themselves running a little behind schedule this weekend, as daylight-saving time is set to chop its annual hour off Americans' Sunday slumber.

Although most people will set their clocks forward one hour before turning in for bed Saturday night, the annual "spring ahead" officially kicks in Sunday morning at 2 a.m.

The change will mean the evening will stretch a bit longer Sunday, with the sun scheduled to set just after 9 p.m. as opposed to Saturday, when it will set at exactly 8 p.m.

A minor inconvenience for some, daylight-saving time can actually help save lives. That's because fire departments across the country -- including in the central peninsula -- are again using the event to remind people to check the batteries in household smoke detectors.

Although a good thing for fire safety, many people seem to be a bit perplexed with the reasoning behind the time change. In 2002, Soldotna legislator Ken Lancaster even sponsored a bill in the State House to abolish the change, but the measure died during the committee process.

Lancaster has since left the Legislature, but his opposition to daylight-saving time remains. He said Thursday he brought the bill up in the Legislature because he can't see the point in the change and because a group of students from Kalifornsky Beach Elementary also wanted to do away with the time change.

"It was kind of both," Lancaster said.

He said the measure has popped up periodically in the Legislature, but has never gotten the support it needs to go through --despite the fact that Alaska, with its notoriously long summer days, doesn't seem to need it.

"It never has made any sense to me," Lancaster said. "I mean, we've got plenty of daylight up here."

Another Alaskan who believes daylight-saving time has passed its prime is Lynn Willis. Willis, a daylight-saving time activist who lives in Eagle River, has testified before the Legislature in the past on the subject.

He's also created a Web site, www.endalaskadaylightsaving.com, to lay out his arguments against the time shift.

"It's pointless," Willis said in an interview Thursday. "It serves no purpose at all."

Willis said there's no benefit to changing the clocks, and that in fact, the shift puts Alaska's already skewed summer days on an even more bizarre schedule.

"Now we've got noon coming even later," he said.

The main argument for keeping up with the times, so to speak, is that if the rest of the country continues to recognize daylight-saving time, Alaska would end up even further behind.

For example, were Alaska to abolish the practice, the state would end up five hours behind the East Coast instead of four.

Willis, however, argues that anyone living in Alaska is already behind the rest of the country, simply by virtue of the fact that Alaskans live so far away.

"That's the point of living up here," he said. "Of course we're in a different time zone."

Additionally, Willis said that while doing away with the time change does keep Alaska up with the rest of the U.S., it brings the state further away time-wise from its Pacific Rim trading partners.

"If we are going to compete as a global economy, why not keep (standard time)?" he asks.

Apparently, the idea for daylight-saving time got its start back in the 1700s, when Benjamin Franklin suggested moving clocks forward in order to take advantage of more afternoon daylight.

Franklin's idea never really caught on until World War II, when it was instituted as a way to cut energy costs.

The measure did not gain official sanction until 1966, when Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which officially called for moving clocks forward in the spring and back in the fall.

Although it's a nationwide program, states can opt out of the change. In fact, Hawaii, as well as parts of Indiana and Arizona, do not recognize the change.

Alaska isn't set to join those area any time soon, as daylight-saving time will definitely take place here Sunday. And there are no bills currently in the Legislature to abolish the change.

For now, Alaskans will simply have to deal with the loss of an hour of sleep come Sunday, and look forward to October. That's when the state will "fall back" to Alaska Standard Time -- and Alaskans can catch up on that extra hour of sleep.



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