Nowadays editors, columnists and commentators commemorate the turn of the year by listing the 10 biggest new stories of the past 12 months. But we would like to extend our necks and look toward the future.

We have dug among our sources for clues to the biggest news stories of 1978. Most sources predict war in the Middle East, a crisis in the Kremlin, a disaster in Hawaii and a setback for the Democrats. Here are the headline stories they expect you to read in the coming year:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 - President Carter got a tattered energy bill from Congress today after dreary months of tugging and hauling. The legislation, which falls short of the President's proposals to deal with the energy crisis, will hit the consumers in the pocket-book.

Final passage came on a compromise, which will allow natural-gas prices to rise from $1.45 to $1.75 per cubic foot for home heating and cooking. Consumer advocates succeeded in continuing token federal price controls, and White House spokesmen pointed out that the $1.75 ceiling was the level initially proposed by the President.

PARIS, March 18 - The French political outlook has been thrown into disarray by the outcome of the tensely fought General Assembly elections. None of the contending major parties achieved any gains that could be viewed as a victory.

The middle-of-the-road Independent Republicans captured enough seats to keep Valery Giscard d'Estaing in the presidency, but he must walk a cautious tightrope between the right and the left. The results will weaken democratic forces in Western Europe.

WASHINGTON, May 4 - By a razor-thin margin of two votes, the Senate today ratified the Panama Canal treaty. A dramatic roll-call vote climaxed months of political maneuvering and controversy, which pitted the Carter administration and Senate liberal-moderate coalition against an increasingly vocal conservative faction.

The treaty was amended by the Senate to give the United States the right to take unilateral action to protect the canal. This provision won the support of Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Minority Leader Howard Baker (R-Tenn). In a last-minute maneuver, President Carter made personal visits to the offices of six "swing" senators hours before the vote.

HILO, Hawaii, June 6 - Streams of hot lava from the erupting Mauna Loa volcano are pushing inexorably toward Hilo, economic hub of the largest island in the Hawaiian chain. Emergency workers are trying desperately to divert the flow around the endangered city.

Mauna Loa, one of the world's largest and most active volcanoes, began belching out fire and smoke late last night. Molten lava boiled out of the volcano's northeast side about 30 miles east of Hilo. Volcanologists are calling it one of the worst eruptions in recorded history.

LAS VEGAS, July 30 - The two-year battle over the fortune of the late billionaire Howard Hughes was settled today, with his former aide Noah Dietrich appointed executor.

The value of his estate has been variously estimated between $500 million and $1 billion. Evidence has been presented in court, however, that an astonishing $135 million has disappeared during the past few years.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15 - President Carter's tax-reform package cleared its final legislative hurdle today. But like his proposals on energy, the legislation that came out of Congress bears only small resemblance to his original proposals.

White House aides accused Sen. Russell Long (D-La.), powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, of loading down the bill with amendments benefiting the special interests.

CAIRO, Sept. 4 - Egyptian ground forces, led by planes and tanks, crossed the Libyan frontier in a surprise attack. Sketchy reports from the battlefield indicate that the Libyan defenders have been overrun. An Egyptian spokesman claimed two dozen Libyan fighter planes have been destroyed, most of them on the ground.

Sources close to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat suggested that he has his sights on Libya's rich oil fields, which are operated by Egyptian technicans. Sadat apparently felt free to invade Libya because the Israeli threat on his eastern front has been neutralized by the peace agreement he signed with the Israelis in June.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 - After a month of hammer-and-tongs debate, the Senate today ratified the SALT disarmament agreement signed last May by the United States and Soviet Union.

In a press conference following the vote, an ebullient President Carter attributed the victory to a fellow Southerner, Sen. John Stennis (D-Miss.). The conservative Stennis threw his critical support behind the treaty several weeks ago. His performance, said Carter, was "a profile in courage."

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 - The Democratic Party, despite a last-minute whirlwind campaign by President Carter, took a beating in today's congressional elections. The Republicans, attacking Carter as an ineffective leader, gained 32 seats in the House and picked up four in the Senate.

MOSCOW, Nov. 27 - Soviet President leonid Brezhnev has not been seen in public since early August, leading to speculation that he is gravely ill and may be forced to relinquish the reins of power.

Andrei Kirilenko, who controls Soviet industry, has temporarily assumed power, according to Kremlin sources. But at 72, Kirilenko is considered too old to replace Brezhnev permanently. He may be bypassed for a younger man. One prospective candidate is 59-year-old Andrei Kulakov, the Soviet agriculture minister. Another is the Leningrad party boss, Grigory Romanov.