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Cheap Energy Luring Manufacturing Back to the US

Corporate chieftains gathered in Davos, Switzerland this week see reason to be optimistic that the shale boom can reindustrialize the U.S. economy and drive not only U.S. but also global growth.

Cheap energy is the "bull case for the world," Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris told CNBC on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum this week.

"I think it's a game changer and I think it is probably the story of global economic recovery if handled right," he said. "And frankly, the beneficiaries of that will be the U.S. consumer and U.S. jobs."

ENI Chairman Giuseppe Recchi went so far as to compare the unconventional energy revolution to the Internet revolution in technology. "What's happening in energy right now is transformational," the Italian energy company executive said. "We're living more or less the same vibrant moment the computer community had 15-20 years ago."

Recchi said that whoever has cheap energy will have an advantage. He told CNBC cheaper energy is "having a geopolitical effect, a competitiveness effect and the U.S. is going to be a totally different place for manufacturing in the years to come."

(See More: Energy Self-Sufficient US Could Cause 'Seismic' Shift)

Last month, the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) forecast that domestic crude oil production will increase sharply through 2019 when production reaches 7.5 million barrels per day in its Annual Outlook 2013.

This growth is largely due to a significant increase in onshore crude oil production, particularly from shale and other tight formations, according to the report.

The EIA also predicted greater natural gas production and cheaper prices, benefiting industries like metals and bulk chemicals.

Liveris told CNBC these industries have already announced $96 billion of investments and the creation of five million new jobs over the next five years.

(Read More: Scenes from Davos 2013—The World Economic Forum)

DSM, a Dutch life sciences and materials company, is among the companies building up its U.S. manufacturing presence. CEO Feike Sijbesma told CNBC, "the U.S. is well positioned in terms of labor costs and cheap energy and you see manufacturing coming back. We invested a lot in U.S. manufacturing and second generation biofuels."

(See More: Royal Dutch Shell CEO: Shale & Renewables Will Be the Future)

With manufacturing coming back and the U.S. building more gas-fired power plants to take advantage of cheap natural gas, industrial conglomerates like Germany's Siemens stand to benefit.

Calling the energy agenda a competitiveness agenda, Siemens' CEO Peter Loscher said in a CNBC interview that the re-industrialization will continue.

"For us, it's a great growth and business opportunity," he said. "It will be a broader business opportunity for industrial automation, for our industrial businesses."

But while the energy boom is a good reason to be optimistic about the U.S., and, perhaps, global economy, political rancor in Washington remains a potential cloud.

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon told CNBC that the finger pointing in Washington does no one any good and that it will take good policies such as a deal on taxes and spending to create jobs. "If we have a grand bargain, America could take off," he said on Wednesday.


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