Natural gas is abundant, clean and far cheaper than diesel. That has the U.S. transportation and auto industries looking for ways to kick their dependence on dirtier fossil fuels.
After years of debating how to tap domestic energy sources, new innovations in the sector have created a boom in U.S. energy production. And natural gas is now being viewed as something of a panacea for much of what ails the world's largest economy — cheaper energy could make U.S. manufacturing globally competitive again.
Indeed, natural gas was the buzz of CERAWeek, an energy conference in Houston that explores hot topics in the energy sector.
Using the fuel in conventional transportation is one avenue that appears to hold vast potential.
This week, BNSF Railway, one of the largest consumers of U.S. diesel fuel and a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, announced a natural gas pilot program for its fleet of locomotives. Observers and market participants say it could be the first step toward eroding the stranglehold oil and traditional gasoline has on cars, trucks and trains.
"Natural gas is a huge boom here in the economy," Lorenzo Simonelli, General Electric Transportation president and CEO told CNBC this week. GE is currently competing against manufacturing giant Caterpillar to develop natural gas locomotives.
The energy source is "a huge opportunity", Simonelli said.
Natural gas has been slow to catch on in the auto industry, but there are tentative signs that consumers may be warming to using the cheaper fuel as an alternative to regular gas.