"All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them." – Walt Disney
Imagine a world where it is once again cheap to fill up your vehicle. It's also a world where greenhouse gas emissions are minimal and the fuel used to run the economy is homemade, not brought from enemy lands. Now, it's beginning to sound like a world that Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) might dream up.
That's why it's almost a bizarre plot twist to realize that this story is real. While Walt Disney and other well-known characters are at its heart, this story of American natural gas is no fantasy. Instead, it's becoming more real every day.
One of the evidences of this reality is actually found at Walt Disney's Disneyland in California. It is just one place where natural gas is making inroads as a transportation fuel. At Disneyland the year round guest transportation service to and from the theme parks, shopping, dining and parking areas features eco-friendly buses powered by cheap, abundant, clean American natural gas.
Disney of course isn't the only character in the plot shift toward natural gas. Lowes (NYSE:LOW) recently launched its own fleet of natural gas powered trucks. The transition from diesel should enable Lowes to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% while also putting a lid on its fuel costs. Its goal is to replace all of its diesel-powered dedicated fleet trucks by 2017 with those fueled by natural gas.
If there is a hero in our story it's Clean Energy Fuels (NASDAQ:CLNE), which is working with Lowes and others to replace diesel with natural gas. For example, in order to support Lowe's shift to natural gas, Clean Energy Fuels will be opening a natural gas refueling station in Texas. That station is just one of the more than 400 that Clean Energy Fuels has built across the country to support the shift toward natural gas.
Today Clean Energy Fuels is able to fuel more than 30,000 vehicles each and every day. Because of its vast network of stations, the company really has helped to lead a major shift in the transportation industry. For example, a quarter of all new buses in America are now built to run on natural gas. These are vehicles that on average emit 30% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than those running on diesel or gasoline.
However, the environmental benefits are just part of the equation. Because natural gas is in abundance in the U.S. it is a much cheaper transportation fuel. On average it's about $1.50 per gallon equivalent cheaper. This is why shipping companies like UPS and FedEx (NYSE:FDX) are also jumping on board to both go green and save green. The powerful combination of environmental benefits and cost savings will fuel FedEx's decision to have 30% of its long-distance trucks make the switch to natural gas over the next decade. The fuel savings from that switch over time will have a positive impact on the bottom line of FedEx's fuel intensive businesses.
This story, however, is a long way from its happy ending. Dare I say that this is where the plot thickens? In America there are 3.2 million class 8 trucks on the road and just over 1,700 of them are fueled by natural gas. That leaves 25 billion gallons of diesel fuel being consumed each year that could be replaced by cleaner burning natural gas. Right now less than 1% of all new trucks are built to run on natural gas.
We once thought that having a cleaner burning fuel that was actually affordable was nothing more than fantasy. Today, we are finding it to be more real that I think any of us ever imagined. Now all we need is for more companies to realize that this is not a dream world and to join the likes of Lowes and FedEx and make the switch. As Walt Disney put it, we can see our dreams come true, we just need to have the courage to pursue them.
How you can have a part in America's fuel revolution
Fool contributor Matt DiLallo owns shares of Walt Disney. Matt DiLallo has the following options: long January 2015 $65 calls on FedEx and short April 2014 $105 calls on FedEx. The Motley Fool recommends Clean Energy Fuels, FedEx, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.