Great timing!

Sunday 28 May 2017

Last month, on the 21st. April 2017 to be precise, the UK experienced the first day since 1882 when all the electricity generated in the country was produced without the use of any coal. This was reported in the Guardian on 22nd April.

Just three weeks later on 12 May students were asked to answer the following question in Section A of the May 2017 TZ2 Paper 3 examination:

“Calculate the mass, in million tonnes, of oxygen gas, ultimately found in CO2 which is consumed in generating 18 000 terawatts of electricity using the equation given for the best fit line. Give your answer to 2 significant figures. Assume coal is the only energy source.”

The question was about worldwide energy production not just the the UK but tongue in cheek I wonder if the IB will accept the answer zero if the student gives the date of 21st  April 2017! More seriously though it seems strange for the question to state “Assume coal is the only energy source” when in the initial graph it shows that natural gas and oil combined, which like coal are also fossil fuels producing carbon dioxide when they combust, are used to produce about twice as much of the world’s consumption of energy than coal. It does make me wonder about the point of the so called ‘Data Response’ questions in Paper 3 if assumptions are made which are manifestly not true just so the question can be answered.


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