Kudos to Delta for proving that airlines have not completely lost the ability to think outside the box.

In a $150 million transaction, the airline has agreed to acquire a Pennsylvania oil refinery that could allow it to cover up to 80% of its U.S. fuel needs by delivering jet fuel straight to Delta in the Northeast and swapping the gasoline and diesel it produces for jet fuel elsewhere.

Like any plan, it could backfire, of course. But given the way that volatile fuel prices have wreaked havoc on airline budgets and forecasts, this could give Delta a huge competitive edge by giving it some control over the so-called "crack spread," the unpredictable difference between what refiners pay for crude oil and what they charge for refined fuel.

Big Oil, meet Big Air.
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