Daryl Hannah is best-known as an actress, made famous in classic 1980s films like “Blade Runner” and “Splash.” More recently, she’s been active on a number of political issues. We reached her recently on her way to an alternative fuels event.

How did you get involved in the alternative fuels movement?
When I first learned about the possibility of not using petroleum, and that’s something we can all do now with very little or no modifications to your car, I was sold. I didn’t want to be a participant in the devastation, the havoc and mayhem and wars that the oil companies bring. It turns out biofuels are a great entre into the larger conversation of over-all ethical lifestyle choices and sustainability.

Biofuels have such amazing potential to be a very important part of the solution to the energy crises that we face, and if they’re not done correctly they’re just another problem. It’s really important that biofuels are grown, harvested and distributed in a mindful and ethical way. When people started becoming aware of biofuels, whether it was ethanol or biodiesel, all the people looking to get a fast cash return jumped in and started doing it in the most irresponsible way. They were chopping down rainforests, shipping over biofuels from Malaysia and the Amazon and boiling down vats of animals and doing all kinds of hideous practices.

Vats of animals?
Yeah, for bio diesel you can use fats. Rendered animals are fine, too, but you know it’s all kinds of really ludicrous ideas that brought a cash return but basically put a black mark on all bio fuels. Then a lot of people started wanting to throw the baby out with the bathwater and say “Forget about it, bio fuels are bad.”

But they still have the same promise they did in the first place. All biofuels are not created equal, but it is possible to do with both ethanol and biodiesel in an incredibly productive and solution-oriented way. You figure out what crops grow well in your region and actually produce tons of bio fuels in some previously environmentally degraded spots. 

There are so many different feedstock for both bio diesel and alcohol.  You can remediate sewage and grow either cattails or kelp or algae and brackish water, and it’s incredibly more productive than normal food crops. The types of crops that we have been traditionally using for these fuels aren’t necessarily the most productive. They’re either energy intensive or water intensive, but that’s just because we’re just trying to get a quick, short, fast return on preexisting crops to take advantage of something the way its already been done previously.
You drive a biodiesel car.

It’s a 1984 diesel El Camino. It’s probably the worst engine ever made, but it’s still running. I have a ten-gallon tank for biodiesel to start it up, and then I run it on straight veggie oil and I just use filtered oil from restaurants in my neighborhood. The biodiesel that I get is also made from waste grease. My ethanol car, my alcohol burner, is also a classic car. It’s the ’79 TransAm from “Kill Bill.”

You’ve become known for your activism in recent years, particularly after you appeared in the documentary “The Garden.”
I’ve always thought that humanitarian issues, concerns about the welfare of other species and even our own human welfare, our environmental issues, are all interconnected.  At a certain point I realized I’ve always been kind of shy and I felt that the best most effective thing I could do is just to try to live by my beliefs.

But at a certain point, I think it’s crucial to step out of your comfort zone and add your voice to those who are fighting on behalf of the defenseless, to just lay your body down on the line in some cases and say, “No, this is insane, we won’t let this happen.” There have been some cases where just getting a little media attention for some of these issues has been really crucial.

Since I’ve been in a profession where that spotlight sometimes shines on me, I have the opportunity to take that light and shine it on other issues. I’ve been moved when I found out they’re blowing up Appalachian mountains for coal, and it’s a very small percentage of our coal and it’s very destructive and not necessary. I went and said, “What can I do to help stop it?” I actually believe that this will hit a tipping point this year and will hopefully be outlawed in the near future.