Thursday, October 18, 2012

High gas prices: What Obama, Romney didn't say

Politicians may not like to admit that they don't have much control over global oil prices.

Wendy Koch, USA TODAY
11:57PM EDT October 17. 2012 - Can government lower gas prices? This question popped up Tuesday night during the second presidential debate, but neither President Obama nor former governor Mitt Romney directly answered it. Instead, they debated their energy policies, which analysts say have little immediate effect on prices at the pump.

The candidates talked about the need to expand domestic oil and gas production, boost energy efficiency and develop renewable energy.
What they didn't say is that U.S. gas prices are largely determined by something else: global crude oil prices, which depend on myriad factors such as economic sanctions on Iran, spare oil capacity in Saudi Arabia and auto use in China factors over which they have little control.

"Politicians don't like to admit they don't have control over everything," says Daniel Weiss, an energy expert at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a non-partisan advocacy group that favors a clean-energy agenda.
"A non-answer probably reflects the complexity of the issue," adds Branko Terzic, a former commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who now heads the Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions. He says prices also vary within the United States because of localized conditions such as oil supply, refinery capacity and transportation.

"High gasoline prices in California are due to a fire at a major oil refinery and a power failure — not a lack of oil," says Weiss, adding Romney's "drill, baby, drill" proposals may boost domestic supply but won't necessarily bring down gas prices. "Even though Canada produces nearly all of its oil, it too had high gasoline prices this year due to high worldwide oil prices."

Pain at the pump seems particularly peculiar this year, because the United States is not only producing more crude oil but also using less of it — leading to a steep drop in net oil imports since 2005.

Although U.S. production of oil and petroleum products has increased 20% since 2008, it was still only 11% of the world's supply last year and 53% of what the nation used, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In other words, it's just not enough to sway global crude oil prices — and gas prices.

Yet high gas prices — averaging $3.76 for a gallon of regular nationwide but exceeding $4 in seven states, according to AAA — remain a potent pocketbook issue. Whenever they've surged this year, Romney has criticized Obama for them. In 2008, when he was running for president, Obama partly blamed then-president George Bush for that year's surge in prices.

"The reality is that presidents have very little to do with near-term fluctuations in gasoline prices," Frank Verrastro, director of the energy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told a U.S. Senate panel earlier this year.

"High gas prices are bad for incumbents," Weiss says, because presidents have limited authority over them. He says they can urge, but not order, regulators to crack down on Wall Street speculators who inflate crude oil prices and can — in cases of extreme supply disruption — sell oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

During Tuesday's debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Romney suggested Obama had more control.
"The proof of whether a strategy is working or not is what the price is that you're paying at the pump," Romney said, adding that gas prices would be lower if Obama's energy strategy worked.

"When the president took office, the price of gasoline here in Nassau County was about $1.86 a gallon. Now, it's $4 a gallon," Romney said, calling for an increase in domestic energy production.

Obama said gas prices were lower at the beginning of his administration because "the economy was on the verge of collapse." He said that "the most important thing we can do" to lower prices "is to make sure we control our own energy."

After citing the U.S. boom in oil, natural gas and coal production during his administration and his doubling of car fuel-efficiency standards, Obama said he's pushing for more renewable power and energy efficiency. "That's how we're going to reduce (oil) demand and that's what's going to keep gas prices lower."

Gas prices: There's not much that presidents can do about them

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GOP nominee Mitt Romney makes sure he gets to make his point even as debate moderator tries to move on.
When you pull up to that gas pump and nearly faint from how much it costs you to fill 'er up, you may be tempted blame the government for not doing enough to keep a lid on prices.

Resist the temptation. The truth is the global nature of the world's energy supply means that no president has much power over what you pay at the pump.

The question of whether the nation's chief executive can do anything to lower soaring energy costs has been a bone of contention between President Barack Obama and his GOP rival, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney.
That bone was tossed about in Tuesday's debate at Hofstra University in Long Island, N.Y.

“The proof of whether a strategy is working or not is what the price is that you're paying at the pump,” Romney said in response to a question from the audience. “If the president's energy policies are working, you're going to see the cost of energy come down."

If gas prices were driven by decisions made in the White House, it’s a safe bet than any incumbent president would do everything possible to drive them lower ahead of a re-election campaign. With the possible exception of the unemployment rate or the Dow Jones industrial index, it’s one of the few numbers voters care most about when they head to the polls.

But while the notion that the government could somehow control gasoline prices is appealing, the reality is that the price you pay is set daily,  sometimes hourly, by market forces around the world.

That was the opinion of a group of economists polled by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business earlier this year. Asked if changes in U.S. gasoline prices over the past 10 years have predominantly been due to market factors rather than U.S. federal economic or energy policies, not a single respondent disagreed.

Recent history seems to have borne out that view.  Despite the recent Bush administration's strong support for the oil and gas industry, pump prices rose from a low of about $1.20 a gallon in late 2001 to a peak of $4 a gallon before crashing below $2 shortly before he left office in 2009. Shortly after Obama took office, prices began a steady climb and kept rising but remain just shy of that 2009 peak.

To be sure, a handful of governments around the world, including major oil-producing nations, artificially lower pump prices through subsidies, in effect selling gas produced in state-owned refineries at a loss. In the U.S., state and federal taxes add to the price collected at the pump by gasoline retailers.

In the 1970s, the Nixon administration tried imposing gasoline price controls to tame a prolonged inflationary spiral that sent the prices of all commodities soaring and to blunt the impact of a price spike brought about by an Arab oil embargo. The result was widespread rationing and long gas lines.

U.S. energy policy has encouraged the exploration and production of crude oil, the biggest single variable in the pump price of gasoline, through tax subsidies that promote drilling. Those tax breaks, which were expanded during the Bush administration, have helped spur a boom in domestic production that has reversed a 20-year decline in U.S. output.

U.S. demand for gasoline peaked in 2007 and has been declining steadily since then. Part of the reason, as Obama mentioned in Tuesday’s debate, is that the recession cut into demand for energy. But gasoline consumption is also falling because the cars and trucks are becoming more fuel-efficient. Obama cited his administration’s efforts to drive fuel efficiency standards higher.

As domestic demand has fallen, U.S. refiners have continued to squeeze more out of each barrel of oil. If the U.S. market were a closed system, the surplus gasoline would tend to drive down prices. But the system isn’t closed. With domestic demand falling and capacity inching higher, refiners have been exporting gasoline to overseas markets. Last year, the U.S. became a net exporter of gasoline and other refined products for the first time since 1949.

Strong global demand, especially in high-growth developing countries such as China and India, has more than offset the U.S. gasoline surplus and kept gasoline prices high.

Rising production of North American crude oil, on the other hand, has helped keep gasoline prices from rising even faster. The reason: Oil producers in northern plains states and Canada can’t get their oil to the global markets where demand is strong. The result is that most of the crude produced in the U.S. and Canada sells at a steep discount to the global benchmark price.

The regional difference in pump prices has been substantial. At the end of last month, the average price for a gallon of gasoline in the Rockies was 41 cents below the U.S. average -- the biggest gap since the Energy Department began tracking regional prices in 1992.

The solution for oil producers is the controversial Keystone pipeline, which the Obama administration has delayed pending an environmental review. Romney and other proponents have argued the pipeline will help wean the U.S. off foreign imports and lower pump prices. But rather than pushing Gulf Coast prices lower, it will let oil producers charge more for their crude.

With limited access to deep water ports, Canadian oil producers have been shipping crude to American refiners, where oil stocks are already ample. Relatively tight supplies outside the U.S., meanwhile, have pushed international crude prices higher.

The solution, for Canadian producers, is a pipeline that would cross the U.S. and provide access to ports in the Gulf of Mexico, where it could be shipped to buyers around the world. That would reduce the glut of oil that has depressed U.S. prices, forcing up the cost to U.S. refiners.

That, at least, was the conclusion of the backers of the Keystone pipeline project, TransCanada Corp., which estimated in their application for Canadian government approval that the project would result in a major windfall for oil producers.

The company estimates the pipeline would boost sales of Canadian-produced crude by $2 billion to $4 billion a year, according to an assessment submitted to Canada's National Energy Board.

Like any government intervention to control prices, energy policy can have unintended consequences in a volatile global energy market. But that won't stop the candidates from trying to take credit - or assign blame - when the debate turns to the equally volatile political topic of gasoline prices.


Voters blame president for gas prices, experts say not so fast

By , Published: March 12, 2012

How much does the president have to do with the price of gasoline?
A lot, say American voters. According to oil experts and economists, not so much — at least in the short term.

Today’s oil prices are the product of years and decades of exploration, automobile design and ingrained consumer habits combined with political events in places such as Sudan and Libya, anxiety about possible conflict with Iran, and the energy aftershocks of last year’s earthquake in Japan.
“This notion that a politician can wave a magic wand and impact the 90-million-barrel-a-day global oil market is preposterous,” said Paul Bledsoe, strategic adviser to the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former Clinton administration official.

The price of gasoline is a hardy perennial in presidential campaigns. Jimmy Carter struggled with high gas prices, which had doubled since the Iranian revolution. And during the 2008 presidential race, Barack Obama said in a campaign speech that “here in Ohio, you’re paying nearly $3.70 a gallon for gas — 21 / 2 times what it cost when President Bush took office.”

On Monday, President Obama defended his energy policy in a flurry of interviews with swing-state TV stations while GOP hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum stumped at an energy summit in Biloxi, Miss. “If we want to create lower prices for energy, we know how to do it — now,” Santorum said. White House spokesman Jay Carney fired back, blaming factors “well beyond the control of any administration.”

What can the president control? This year, Republicans are saying Obama has not done enough to promote domestic drilling, but the U.S. drilling-rig count is twice as high now as it was in 2009. With the exception of a spike in 2008, the current rig count is higher than any year since the early 1980s, according to figures compiled by WTRG Economics.

The White House frequently points to the increase in domestic oil production when talking about what it calls its “all of the above” policy to develop myriad sources of energy. But that is a result of new drilling techniques, the lure of high crude prices, and offshore projects that began before Obama entered the White House. Shell, for example, began oil production in the Gulf of Mexico from its Perdido platform during Obama’s term; it bought initial leases in the area in 1996 and began commercial development in 2006.
“Everyone takes credit for what’s on their watch,” said Frank Verrastro, director of the energy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

(Related: A rule of thumb for gas prices and the economy)
U.S. policy makes a difference, energy experts say, but with a long delay, whether it is a matter of drilling for more oil or increasing the fuel efficiency of the automobile fleet, which takes a decade or more to turn over.
“There is a substantial time lag between the adoption of energy policies [on the demand and supply sides] and their impact on the market,” said Jay Hakes, a former administrator of the Energy Information Administration and now director of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum. “George W. Bush deserves some credit for signing the 2007 legislation that has helped the current situation from getting worse, but [he] will never get any credit.”
Hakes said that “Obama is on a good path to ease future markets.” He cites the president’s decisions to open new areas for exploration and development, most notably Alaska’s Arctic coasts, and to deal aggressively with oil demand by raising efficiency standards for automobiles.

That hasn’t stopped Republican leaders — and voters — from blaming Obama for pump prices that have climbed to $3.80 for a gallon of regular gasoline, according to AAA. The 29.5-cent-per-gallon increase in the past month would, if sustained, wipe out a quarter of the effect of the payroll tax cut, siphoning off money that consumers might have spent elsewhere. Even if voters didn’t blame Obama directly for the increase, a slower economy might still hurt his reelection prospects.

Perhaps no politician has done more to put the onus on the president than Gingrich, who says he has a plan to reduce gas prices to $2.50 a gallon and offset the loss of output that might result from an attack on Iran, which exports about 2.5 million barrels of crude oil per day.

“There’s no way we could increase production that much,” said Verrastro of the CSIS. “But the facts be damned. It’s election season.”

As for lowering U.S. pump prices, that would require lowering world crude oil prices. Crude oil accounts for about three-quarters of the cost of a gallon of gas at these price levels, according to the Energy Information Administration. By comparison, taxes account for just 12 percent, refining about 6 percent, and distribution and marketing about 6 percent.

The international oil market has tightened, not because of a single factor such as U.S. drilling but because a series of crises has shaved oil production or boosted demand worldwide. Together they add up to a difference of about 1 million barrels a day in the global oil balance.

In the wake of a tsunami and earthquake last year, Japan has closed down virtually all of its 54 nuclear power plants and has been burning more oil to generate electricity; its power sector is using 320,000 barrels a day more than before the disasters, according to the International Energy Agency.

In Sudan, bickering between the north and the south and a dispute over pipeline revenue have choked off about 240,000 barrels a day, the IEA said. Unrest in Yemen and Syria knocked out about 100,000 barrels a day each. Libya’s output is recovering from last year’s civil war, but at 1.3 million barrels a day, output is still about 300,000 barrels a day short of capacity, traders say. And as a result of maintenance problems in the North Sea, Norwegian and British output is running about 160,000 barrels a day lower than normal, the IEA added.

In China, economic growth has slowed, but the IEA still expects demand to climb by 400,000 barrels a day.

This year, global oil demand will hit 89.9 million barrels a day, the IEA says, shrinking the spare production capacity to a level lower than Iran’s exports. That has spooked oil traders and refiners. Because oil products are so essential to companies and motorists, incremental changes in the supply-and-demand balance have a relatively large effect on prices.

Are speculators the problem? Traders magnify the size and speed of price movements, even if they don’t alter the direction. Large speculators are holding record-long positions in gasoline — which pay off when prices rise — and near-record-long positions in crude oil, notes Ed Yardeni, president and chief investment strategist at Yardeni Research. By buying these stakes in the market, they drive up prices now.

U.S. refinery maintenance is often blamed for gasoline price jumps, but crude oil prices have been high in Europe and Asia as well as in certain regions of the United States.

One thing a president can do is to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that is kept in giant salt caverns near the Gulf of Mexico. That has happened three times — at the outset of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, after Hurricane Katrina swept through oil production and refining facilities in the Gulf states in 2005, and during the Libyan civil war in 2011. In 2000, President Bill Clinton ordered a swap of oil from the reserve, letting refiners give the oil back in 2001.

But oil experts are divided about the impact of such a release. In the past, SPR releases have lowered prices, but only temporarily. Moreover, the 696-million-barrel reserve — which could, for example, offset a 280-day suspension of Iranian oil exports — is an emergency stockpile for supply disruptions, not a device for blunting price increases.

Other issues have been raised that have little or nothing to do with current gas prices. Approving the Keystone XL pipeline, rejected by Obama with its current route and highlighted by Gingrich on Monday as a useful move, would not add to current oil supplies; it would only add to the excess pipeline capacity from Canada that is expected to last until 2016. Renewable energy such as wind and solar makes the electricity grid cleaner but has nothing to do with oil prices. Electric cars could help, but it is likely that their sales figures will fall short of administration goals. And higher U.S. production will cut U.S. oil imports and ease the pressure on global demand, but the United States will remain a major oil importer for many years.

Said Verrastro: “We need a reasoned debate based on facts, but that’s not the climate we’re in, unfortunately.”

Staff researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.

  1. Rule of thumb for gas prices, economy
  2. Putting high gas prices in context
  3. Why gas prices aren’t likely to sway the election

How much do we really spend on gas?

Gas prices are spiking, and a new poll found that seven in 10 of us find the issue very important. For some, it definitely is — long-distance commuters and makers of gas-guzzlers, for instance. But for most of us, a bigger number on the pump makes only a small dent in our annual expenses.
Gas prices through history
Adjusting gas prices for inflation shows that prices have spiked before.
Gas spending and household budget
While the we may be paying a bit more, the portion of income spent
on gas remains a relatively small percentage.
How spending compares
Even during the last peak in 2008, spending on gas was just above 4 percent. Gas spending has stayed pretty consistent as a portion of total spending.
Oil consumption in the future
U.S. energy consumption is projected to grow for at least two decades, and oil consumption is expected to remain steady.
NOTE: Charts may not add up to 100 percent because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; U.S. Energy Information Administration; Department of Energy.
GRAPHIC: Bonnie Berkowitz and Laura Stanton - The Washington Post. Published March 13, 2012.

Gasbag: Why No President Can Bring Us $2 Gasoline

Nick M Do

It’s Presidents’ Day as I write this, so if you were lucky enough to have the day off, give some thanks to Washington, Lincoln and all the other chief executives — even stinkers like James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson. Of course in modern American politics, every day is really Presidents’ Day — so central is the occupant of the White House to the perceived state of the nation. Good news or bad news, foreign or domestic, the President gets the credit — and he gets the blame, whether he actually deserves either.

That goes for one of the most importantly economic indicators — psychologically at least — that’s out there: gas prices. A gallon of gas now costs an average of $3.53, already up 25¢ from the beginning of the year, and the highest price it’s even been at this time of the year. (Gas prices are usually lower in the winter, when the cold weather and lack of holidays curtails some driving.) With the U.S. economy strengthening — driving up demand for gasoline, and price as well — and the situation in Iran and the rest of the oil-producing Middle East looking uncertain, analysts believes gas could be well over $4 a gallon by the prime driving months of the summer.

You can bet that gas prices will be a major campaign issue during the 2012 presidential election, just as they were in 2008 — better known as the summer of “drill, baby, drill.” Republican candidate Newt Gingrich — who wants to “drill here, drill now” — has been promising that he could bring gasoline to $2.50 a gallon or less if he takes office, while the other candidates are concentrating their fire at President Obama, blaming his policies for the pain at the pump. But does a President really have that much control over how much it costs for you to fill your car?

(MORE: Why Michele Bachmann’s $2-a-Gallon Promise Is a Fantasy)

The short answer is: not really. One way to understand that is to look at how gas prices have fared under President Obama. When he entered office in January 2009, gas cost $1.81 a gallon. Now it’s nearly $2 a gallon higher, an increase of 95%. That sounds bad, but the main reason gas had become so cheap at the start of the Obama Administration was that he was took office during the heart of the worst global recession since the Great Depression. Recession depress economic demand, and when demand is depressed, fewer people drive — which in turns leads the price of gas to fall like any other commodity would when demand falls. As the economy recovered and economic activity picked up — both in the U.S. and elsewhere — the price of gas rose as well. If future President Gingrich were to somehow be able to deliver $2.50-a-gallon gas, it would probably mean the economy had tanked again.

But what about encouraging more production of oil, both in the U.S. and in friendly nations like Canada, with its vast oil-sands reserve? For one thing, domestic oil production has increased under President Obama, thanks largely to the new unconventional reserves in states like North Dakota. Does Obama deserve much credit for that increase in domestic oil? Probably not. Though Obama has put some additional regulations on the oil industry in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, it’s hard to imagine that oil companies wouldn’t have been just as eager and able to tap those new resources under a Republican as they have been under a Democrat. And more to the point, that additional domestic oil has done little to alleviate gas prices, in part because oil functions on a global market, and extra American crude is just a drop in that much larger bucket.

(MORE: Pipeline Politics: Keystone, Advocates and Analysts)

Republicans will counter by charging that Obama blocked the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported over 800,000 barrels a day of oil-sands crude into the U.S. They’re on firmer ground here — the oil sands are a potentially massive resource, and if that crude can flow unimpeded to the U.S., there’s every reason to expect it would help reduce gas prices somewhat. (That’s ignoring the very real environmental and climate risks presented by the oil sands.) But even so, Keystone would have little immediate effect, especially since there’s already sufficient pipeline infrastructure in place for the next few years. The extra oil brought in by the pipeline might — might — reduce gas prices a few cents a gallon.

In truth, gas prices have increased largely because the U.S. economy is doing better, raising demand for gas along with everything else. Europe’s economy has remained sluggish and risks falling apart completely, which has acted as a drag on oil, but China has kept chugging along — chances are it will use 5% more oil this year. And then there’s Iran, which exports 2.2 million barrels of oil a day. That’s just a tiny part of the 89 million barrels of oil that are consumed globally, but if something goes seriously wrong in Iran — imagine an Israeli attack on the country’s nuclear facilities or even a total ban on exports — the impact on oil markets and gas prices would be ugly.

Can the President of the United States control exactly what happens inside Iran or the rate of Chinese economic growth? Obviously not — and one would hope that, as important as gas prices may be to his re-election campaign, President Obama has other priorities in mind when he’s dealing with the Middle East. Gas prices should be largely a byproduct of presidential policy—not its aim.

In fact, it’s not the price of gas the President should focus on — it’s the effect high gas prices can have on the economy. A more energy-efficient economy — from gas mileage on up — is naturally more resilient to high energy prices. That’s one area the President can help shape — and it’s an area President Obama has found quiet success. The White House has pushed through measures that will mandate significant increases in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy rules, which means in the future, American drivers will be better protected against the next big hike in gas prices. And that’s not something one hears often from the Republican presidential field

MORE: A Quiet Green Win for Obama on Auto Efficiency

Medical malware 'rampant' in US hospitals

Getty Images
Medical devices are at risk from computer attacks and malware, government experts say. The problem, in part, stems from fears that updating or modifying existing software could break U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules.
Under the current law, software used to run medical devices in hospitals, once approved, must remain static. Therefore, manufacturers will not install anti-virus software or provide updates to fix security flaws, Technology Review reports.
As is the result with most unprotected computers online, the medical devices become infected with malware. The best hospitals can do to combat it is to take infected machines offline and clean them. That however, can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive process that also makes the device unusable for that period of time.
"Conventional malware is rampant in hospitals because of medical devices using unpatched operating systems,"  Kevin Fu, a medical-device and computer security scientist at UMass Amherst and the University of Michigan, told Technology Review. "There's little recourse for hospitals when a manufacturer refuses to allow OS updates or security patches."
The biggest concern, though, is what impact the malware has on the devices and what that means for patient safety.
In one example, malware caused a slowdown in a fetal monitor used to treat high-risk pregnant women. The infected device failed to track or record data, said Mark Olson, the chief information security officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
"Fortunately, we have a fallback model because they are high-risk [patients]," Olson told Technology Review. "They are in an IC unit — there's someone physically there to watch. But if [a doctor or nurse] are stepping away to another patient, there is a window of time for things to go in the wrong direction."

Boy kicked out of school because he has gene for cystic fibrosis

A California boy has been ordered to transfer to another middle school because he carries the gene for cystic fibrosis, even though he doesn't actually have the incurable, life-threatening and non-infectious disease. His parents have gone to court to fight the move.
Their son, 11-year-old Colman Chadam, was told last week that he’d have to transfer from Jordan Middle School in Palo Alto, Calif., to a school three miles away because he posed a risk to another student at school who does have the disease, according to TODAY.
“I was sad but at the same time I was mad because I understood that I hadn’t done anything wrong,” Colman told TODAY. He added: “It feels like I’m being bullied in a way that is not right.”
An inherited condition, cystic fibrosis causes the body to create a thick mucus that clogs the lungs and can lead to life-threatening lung infections. About 30,000 American adults and children have the disease and patients have an average life expectancy in the late 30s.
While it is not contagious, doctors say people with cystic fibrosis can pose a danger to each other through bacterial cross-contamination if they are in close contact.
“In general, we would prefer that there not be more than one cystic fibrosis patient in a school,” Dr. Thomas Keens, the head of the cystic fibrosis center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, told TODAY.
The district’s assistant superintendent, Charles Young, told NBC News that officials relied on medical authorities who said “a literal physical distance must be maintained” between patients and that the "zero risk option" was to transfer Colman.
But Colman’s parents, who are home-schooling him while they await a court hearing next week, say the school is overreacting.
“Why take a child who’s new to the district, who’s just making friends, who’s just building a support network, who’s just getting to know his teachers, who’s been well his whole life ... why stigmatize him?” his father, Jaimy Chadam, said on TODAY.
Jennifer Chadam said her son has attended two other schools with students who have cystic fibrosis. “It has never been an issue. Ever,” she said.
Colman’s parents told the school about his condition on a form at the start of the school year, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Colman has not suffered from lung problems, never needed treatment and had a negative result on a sweat test, the most accurate test for the disease, his parents told the Chronicle last week. They told the paper their son has never had a clinical diagnosis of cystic fibrosis.
“The school district freaked out," Jennifer Chadam told the paper.
TODAY’s Star Jones, a former prosecutor, and Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s chief medical editor, said the district erred in transferring Colman.
Snyderman said Colman is not at risk for developing the disease, and said a student with the genetic marker for cystic fibrosis should not pose a health risk.
“The idea behind segregating these kids is that you don’t want them to get secondary infections because they have problems with their lungs and with their guts,” Snyderman told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Wednesday. “They are more at risk for infections but I just want to underscore he doesn’t have cystic fibrosis so this was in an ill-thought-out decision.”
Jones said a school district cannot unilaterally transfer a student without due process, and said the school was probably acting to head off a possible lawsuit if anything happened to the student who does have cystic fibrosis.
“It’s a pre-emptive strike,” Jones said. “They don’t want to exacerbate this child’s death by one extra day.”
She said the school can’t have it both ways with Colman. “You cannot deny his ability to be in the school without due process and then not use due process pretending that he has this disease,” she said.
Snyderman said that while the Chadams never could have anticipated that their disclosure would have led to a transfer, she said their case is reminder to parents that the information they provide on forms will be scrutinized.
“Everything you put down on any one of those nursing or doctor forms, man oh man, can it come back to bite you,” she said.