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Added on: March 10th, 2012 by No Comments

The energy crisis is not just a local or national issue but a global one as well. Various groups are responding to energy needs in particular ways—the U.S. and several other countries are looking into synthetic biology to address these problems. Research in this new field, as it is emerging in the United States, is largely devoted to the production of biofuels. Several institutions, which we will call “biofuels interest groups,” envision this energy source to play a significant role in the remediation of current energy challenges. But what are the current challenges that are motivating these groups to pursue this particular resource through a particular and new science such as synthetic biology? After an examination of four of these interest groups, stationed here in the U.S., we have come to the conclusion that the energy crisis to which each group responds is framed by them in a particular way such that biofuels plays a major, if not the only viable and sustainable, role in the remediation of the problem. These groups claim that synthetic biology offers unique and viable paths toward a sustainable future. We will examine exactly what kinds of future are illustrated by each institution—what they mean by a “sustainable future”—by identifying the views, resources, technologies, and management strategies of each group. In addition we will situate them in their human practices context to view not only what they plan to do, but how and to what extent they will carry out their plan. The groups we present are the Joint Bioengineering Institute (JBEI), Amyris Biotechnologies, and the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI). In order to assess the feasibility of these models outside of the lab we will present a section which provides an overview of the current socio-political atmosphere in which they must operate. This section examines alternative approaches to the energy crisis, motivations for realizing a certain approach, and the decision making forces at play. Two distinct ideologies are represented by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and Tad Patzek to aid in this discussion.

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