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Will the US energy boom actually create jobs?

Wednesday, 15 Jan 2014 | 11:45 AM ET
Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr. | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Business leaders laud the idea of an American energy revolution as a savior of the economy, a driver of resurgent U.S. manufacturing and a new engine for job growth. It's been a patriotic mantra for both Democrats and Republicans.

But is that promise any more than just hope at this point?

Publishing magnate Steve Forbes—twice a GOP hopeful for president—has entered the debate as a true believer that cheaper energy produced in the U.S. will lead to manufacturing "coming back in ways that we can't barely anticipate."

His partner in this new push may appear to be a strange bedfellow: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who once served as President Barack Obama's chief of staff. They appeared Wednesday on CNBC's "Squawk Box" to pitch their upcoming "Reinventing America Summit" in the Windy City.

(Read more: US energy boom as big as Internet: Rahm Emanuel)

Reinventing America's workforce with cheap energy
Steve Forbes, Forbes media chairman & editor-In-chief, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, discuss how implementing innovations with cheap energy will provide a renaissance in manufacturing and create more jobs.

"The cheap natural gas is going to allow us to basically reshore manufacturing," Emanuel said. "One of the things I'm trying to do as mayor is as manufacturing is coming back to the United States, we have a school … totally dedicated towards training for advanced manufacturing."

"I want to make sure we have the workforce, as every company is chasing skills and training of a workforce," he continued.

Not everyone is singing from the same hymn book, though.

In 2011, CNBC's Jim Cramer went out to the Bakken shale fields that straddle the U.S.-Canadian border to see if the budding energy boom was the real deal.

But nearly three years later, Cramer is skeptical.

"The biggest employer is Cheniere. They're the ones that are adding the jobs. What are they doing? They're exporting natural gas because our country hasn't endorsed it,"Cramer argued on "Squawk Box" following Wednesday's Emanuel-Forbes interview.

"There's a lot of people talking about it," he said, "but the federal government, the president in particular [has] not really endorsed it. It has not produced that many jobs in terms of mobility."

"I mean, I love it. It's a real good, feel good story. It would be even better if it was happening," he concluded.

For his part, Obama is scheduled to announce the creation of a manufacturing institute Wednesday to help create new high-paying jobs. North Carolina State University will be home to this $140 million consortium of companies and other schools, charged with developing the next generation of energy-efficient electronic chips and devices.

The Energy Department will provide a $70 million grant, which will be matched by institute members, including the heavy equipment maker John Deere and auto-parts maker Delphi and state governments.

By CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere. Follow him on Twitter @Matt_SquawkCNBC.

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